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March 30, 2023 – Message from the Chief
Louise Rogers, chief, San Mateo County Health

Health Officer Updates Messages from the Chief

March has marked three-year anniversaries of some of the earliest COVID-19 public health actions that were required at the local and state levels, and I echo the thanks that the Board of Supervisors extended at their meeting on March 14th to all of our community partners for the roles you have played and continue to play to further our community’s health and well-being.

The wastewater data that our public health team is monitoring suggest that the risk of getting infected by COVID remains moderate. The virus concentration levels have been lower than the recent winter peaks (November – January) but are still higher than a year ago. While vaccinations continue to protect most from severe disease, there are between 20 and 30 people per day hospitalized with COVID. The number of deaths this winter was significantly fewer than the previous two.

Following the February 28 end of state and local public health emergency orders, the State issued revised guidance that will be effective April 3, no longer requiring masking in high-risk and health care settings. Facilities will be making decisions for their respective operations and sharing with staff, patients and visitors. Also, a person who tests positive may end isolation after five days if they feel well, have improving symptoms, and are fever-free for 24 hours.

As we wrap up our final school-based vaccine clinics targeting the populations that have been disproportionately impacted by COVID-19, individuals can continue to access vaccines through health care providers and pharmacies. California and the federal government have taken actions to maintain coverage for vaccination for those enrolled in Medi-Cal, a commercial insurance plan, or Medicare. As of March 22, 2023, some 262,755 residents (representing 34% of the population) have received the updated COVID bivalent booster. This booster, which targets both the original virus strain and the Omicron variant and its subvariants, 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. Currently, 52% of county residents 65 years and older have received this booster.

As shared in last month’s update, County Health has reassessed local data dashboards, retiring some and updating others, to better reflect our current and most relevant understanding of the presence of the virus and disease severity being experienced. In addition, we will now sunset local vaccination dashboards and refer to data made available by the State. The State provides vaccination data dashboards from San Mateo County across age, race/ethnicity, and equity measures, in addition to data at the ZIP code level.

In this phase in which pathways for vaccination, testing and treatment will be defined by one’s health insurance, I want to express appreciation for our Human Services Agency colleagues who are working with clients, our County Health teams, and partners to reach the residents insured through Medi-Cal to complete the annual redetermination process that is resuming after a three-year suspension. This is a vital part of assuring equitable access to healthcare in our community.

All together better,

Louise Rogers