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February 2, 2022 – Message from the Chief
Louise Rogers, chief, San Mateo County Health

Health Officer Updates Messages from the Chief

As we turn the calendar page to February, it is heartening to see a decline in the level of COVID-19 transmission in San Mateo County, the Bay Area, and across California. Though transmission remains as high as it was in December, we do have a second week of moving in a downward direction.

The work to climb down from the mountain we had had to climb requires more stamina in these weeks, but we continue to expect better days in the weeks ahead. We are staying humble about all we do not yet know, remaining focused on learning alongside public health colleagues across the country how to adapt, and balancing all that is needed to stay well. 

The federal government’s effort to make N95 masks available through local pharmacies has begun with store locations listed on the CDC website. Federal actions to make at-home tests more available and expansions of testing sites across San Mateo County are contributing to improved access to COVID-19 tests with appointments available within a day or two at all our County-supported test sites. While walk-ins are not guaranteed, all test sites are serving a significant number of walk-ins. We also expect to learn more soon about the timeline for approval of a vaccine for young children under the age of 5, following Pfizer’s actions that their two-dose vaccine be considered as they continue to complete research on the value of a third dose.

The level of virus transmission remains high with our 7-day lagged case rate average reported by the State yesterday at 144 cases per 100K in the population, compared to 213 a week ago. This is an average of 1,123 new COVID-19 cases per day compared to 1,661 new cases per day in last week’s data. Our current case activity keeps us in the CDC’s “high” level of community transmission. Test positivity rates countywide (14.4%) and in the Health Equity Quartile census tracts (21.5%) are a bit lower than a week ago in the 7-day lagged data that goes through January 23rd. The testing level reported by the State yesterday (incorporating a 7-day lag) was 1,451 tests per day per 100K population.  

As of yesterday, the census of 131 hospitalized COVID-19 patients is lower than the 140-150 levels we were seeing a week ago. The number of residents we are serving in the hotels that offer safe isolation has been between 36 and 55 during the last week. We applaud our hospital and skilled nursing facility staff and partners whose teams are caring for so many. 

Vaccination update

We applaud every resident who has received a vaccine and booster when eligible and give a big shout-out to our partners at the San Mateo County Event Center who have enabled us to reach more than 85,000 people at this location from October 2021 through January 2022. We still have substantial vaccination capacity at multiple community-based clinics across the county to serve residents in addition to pharmacies and healthcare providers. 

Furthering health equity by closing gaps in vaccine and booster reach remains a very high priority. The uptake at other locations strategically chosen to reduce equity gaps in vaccine take-up has decreased somewhat but there is still a steady level of demand remains across these community-based sites. They will remain open for vaccinations via appointment or walk-up. In addition to 15 standing community sites, we continue to partner with schools to offer pediatric vaccination at schools in Belle Haven, East Palo Alto and South San Francisco this week and in Redwood City next week.

Our overall County vaccination rate (including all eligible and ineligible residents) is currently at 88% for those who have received at least one dose and 81% for those who are fully vaccinated. As of January 31st, a total of 685,312 residents have received at least one shot.  The population groups that have not yet reached 80% having received a first shot include kids aged 5-11 (62%), the Black population (64%), the Latinx population (70%) and the Pacific Islander population (61%). Work by our epidemiology team to attribute the race/ethnicity for the 65,000 residents whose vaccination was recorded with a race/ethnicity of “other” or “unknown” assists us to better understand the gaps and how best to reach those who remain unvaccinated. 

The number of residents who have received a COVID-19 booster has now surpassed 387,000 and we want to see that all eligible residents receive a booster to maintain optimal protection. It is great to see that 79% (96,262) of the 65+ population that is fully vaccinated has received a booster. Last week we also worked with six congregate facilities to set up on-site vaccinations for staff and vulnerable residents.

We continue to urge vaccination now as it remains vitally important. And as we look forward to lower levels of virus transmission in future weeks, we are not there yet, and so we remind everyone to continue wearing the most protective mask that can fit well and be worn consistently, to seek a test if symptoms arise, and to isolate if sick. 

All Together Better,

Louise Rogers