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January 17, 2023 – Message from the Chief
Louise Rogers, chief, San Mateo County Health

Health Officer Updates Messages from the Chief

As we experience a reprieve from the recent storms, our community faces challenges in moving toward recovery. The risk of COVID-19 remains, but some impacts are lessening.

Turning to COVID-19 for this update, it is important to know that we remain in a period of COVID-19 and multiple respiratory viruses circulating. Subvariants of Omicron, BQ.1, BQ1.1 and now XBB are gaining dominance to cause more transmission in the U.S. and California. These subvariants are highly transmissible and can evade antibodies, causing an increased risk of infections with at least mild-moderate symptoms and the potential to infect others. The COVID-19 vaccine, bivalent booster, and oral antiviral medication (Paxlovid) remain effective at preventing hospitalizations, and severe disease.

Wastewater and other local surveillance data monitored by our epidemiology team suggest that there is a high level of COVID circulating in the Bay Area. The most recent data suggest an increasing COVID transmission while influenza and other respiratory viruses may be leveling out or beginning to decline. However, activity remains high relative to historical comparisons. The risk of infection from COVID and influenza continues to be high in San Mateo County.

As of January 11, 2023, a total of 242,016 residents (representing 31% 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, which remains available through pharmacies and health care providers. Currently, 49% of residents 65 years and older have received this booster. We continue to partner with schools, community– and faith–based organizations to host pop-up clinics to reach residents who have been historically underserved and disproportionally impacted by COVID-19. At our most recent pop-up clinic, a partnership with St. Francis of Assisi Church in East Palo Alto, we were able to reach a higher percentage of Black, Latinx and Native Hawaiian/Pacific Islander residents in comparison to previous clinics, helping to further close health equity gaps.

Testing when one has symptoms can also help mitigate the spread of COVID-19. Our COVID-19 testing site has the most up to date schedule for testing locations. Some sites are subject to weather related cancelations or delays. Due to underutilization, the State is planning to decommission testing sites in 5 cities (Daly City, East Palo Alto, Half Moon Bay, Pacifica, South San Francisco) by February 5th. One drive-through testing site in San Mateo will remain.

Alternatively, residents are encouraged to reach out to their health care providers for testing services or at-home test kits. In addition, residents can request test kits through the Federal Government site: USPS. We also appreciate the many CBO partners who are requesting at home test kits and distributing to residents. These are also distributed at pop-up vaccine clinics and participating food distributions sponsored by Second Harvest Food Bank. CBOs can request at home test kits for distribution using the OCA online form or the CDPH online form.

We include prevention best practices on our website – washing hands, covering one’s cough, staying home when sick, wearing a mask, and improving ventilation for indoor settings can make a difference.

We also want to increase awareness about the availability of effective treatments that must begin within a few days of symptoms. People who are older than 50 years or who have other risk factors for severe disease may most benefit from treatment if infected with COVID-19. In addition to healthcare providers and urgent care centers, the State has a hotline (833-422-4255) and website to assist Californians needing help with finding free COVID-19 treatment.

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

All together better,

Louise Rogers