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February 14, 2023 – Message from the Chief
Louise Rogers, chief, San Mateo County Health

Health Officer Updates Messages from the Chief

As we continue to adapt to living with COVID-19 and approach the February 28th end date of the State’s public health emergency orders, I want to update you on our local situation. 

Local public health data suggest a moderate level of COVID transmission in San Mateo County. Positivity rates and COVID concentration in wastewater have decreased from the peaks in December, but the rates are still higher than last spring and fall, so the likelihood of infection also remains higher than those seasons. COVID hospitalizations have ranged between 11 and 32 during the past two weeks, compared to a peak this winter of 61. With our highly vaccinated population, fewer people are experiencing severe disease than the previous two winters. This evolution of the pandemic threat is evident in the winter peaks of daily ICU patients decreasing from a level of 45 two years ago (January 2021), to 33 last year (January 2022), to 7 this winter (January 2023). While these trends are encouraging, the remaining daily hospitalizations are a reminder that the potential for severe disease is still present, particularly for those with higher risk factors.

As of February 8th, 2023, a total of 253,853 residents (representing 33% of the population) have received the updated COVID bivalent booster. This booster provides the greatest protection against the most severe impacts of COVID, so we encourage all eligible persons, especially adults aged 65 years and older, to receive the bivalent booster dose. Vaccines remain available through pharmacies and health care providers. Currently, 51% of residents 65 years and older have received this booster. Through the end of March, we appreciate continuing to partner with faith-based organizations and schools on targeted vaccination clinics aimed at reaching residents who have historically been underserved and the communities most disproportionately impacted by COVID-19. Our Vaccine Clinic Calendar website is regularly updated as new offerings become available.

The State-supported LHI/OptumServe drive-through PCR testing site in San Mateo will end on Thursday, February 23rd. At-home tests continue to be reimbursable through health insurance for most people. The pathways for community-based organizations to order at-home tests through the Office of Community Affairs or through the State remain, as the State has not yet indicated when this resource will end. We are grateful for the community-based organizations that have distributed at-home test kits to residents throughout the county. 

For those of you who look to our COVID dashboards, you will see some changes in the coming weeks to reflect the data that we continue to monitor to inform our understanding of the presence of the virus and disease severity in the community. With the rise in at-home testing that is not reported to us, case and testing data do not provide meaningful intelligence of the virus’s presence, leading us to sunset those dashboards. We will also be improving the display of COVID hospitalization and death trends to better depict what can be understood about the level of disease severity over time. 

Thank you for all that you do to further the health of our community.

All Together Better,

Louise Rogers