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November 1, 2022 – Message from the Chief
Louise Rogers, chief, San Mateo County Health

Health Officer Updates Messages from the Chief

We are engaged on several important public health protection fronts and value this monthly opportunity to update the community.

You may have heard some local news coverage of rescissions of local health orders in other counties requiring COVID-19 vaccination or testing. We do not have to rescind local orders for masking or vaccination because we have already aligned with the State. The State requirements, such as for masking within health care facilities, continue to be in effect. 

COVID & Flu Vaccines

We urge vaccination for flu and COVID-19. Flu shots are available to everyone age 6 months and older. COVID-19 vaccines are available for those 6 months and older and boosters available for those who are age 5 and older. 

For the COVID-19 vaccine, we urge residents age 5+ who have completed their primary vaccine series or received their most recent booster at least two months ago to get the updated COVID-19 bivalent Omicron-specific booster. This updated booster provides important protection against severe illness and death. Omicron-specific boosters for those under age 5 are expected to become available in December or January.

As of last Thursday, 17.5% of residents 12 years and older have obtained the updated COVID-19 bivalent booster. There are many pathways to get vaccinated through pharmacies and health care providers, with appointment availability ranging from within a few days to a couple of weeks. 

County Health is offering vaccination clinics at rotating locations to reach the communities that have been hardest hit by COVID. This month and next month, we have scheduled clinics in partnership with schools in South San Francisco, Belmont, East Palo Alto, Redwood City, and Menlo Park. We also have additional vaccine clinic offerings scheduled in collaboration with our community partners in Pescadero, San Mateo, Redwood City and East Palo Alto. These are listed on our vaccine clinic calendar website. We’ve received requests for 10 additional pop-up vaccine clinics and will be working with our community partners to confirm details of those events. We will continue to update the vaccine clinic calendar site as new clinics are confirmed. 

We encourage community partners to continue requesting targeted pop-up vaccine events through the request form found on our Vaccine Clinic Calendar website. We are prioritizing clinics targeting individuals and families who have been historically underserved and are disproportionately impacted by COVID, such as our Black, Latinx and Native Hawaiian / Pacific Islander residents. 

The numbers of reported COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations are stable, which continue to categorize San Mateo County in the CDC’s “Low” community level. Yet there continue to be SMC residents hospitalized with COVID, with numbers ranging from 11-18 in the last couple of weeks. 

The hospitalizations, test data, and wastewater surveillance suggest there is still substantial community transmission of COVID in our region. The threat of long COVID symptoms, hospitalizations and deaths are still very real, particularly for older adults. And, perhaps you’ve read news about a swarm of subvariants such as BQ.1.1 and XBB causing spikes in other parts of the world and around the country. These subvariants will soon arrive in our county, but the good news is they’re mostly sublineages from Omicron. This means that the updated Bivalent booster would still be very effective and protective against severe disease.  


Also, you’ve read headlines about other respiratory viruses increasing across the region. In particular, RSV is circulating widely in San Mateo County. RSV disproportionately hospitalizes infants with bronchiolitis but also affects older adults and adults with chronic medical conditions. Influenza hospitalizations are already higher than normal in the eastern part of the U.S., so we’re concerned that the flu will spread widely to California in the coming weeks. 

So, what does this mean for our residents this winter? First, schedule your flu and covid booster vaccine to protect you and your family. Second, individuals who develop viral symptoms, such as a cough and fever, should be tested for COVID and isolate for 5-10 days if positive. If the COVID test is negative, health care providers could test for other viruses. Regardless of the test results, common sense prevails: people with a cough and fever probably have an infectious respiratory virus! They should wear a mask and avoid contacting others.

MPX (Monkeypox)

Regarding our emergency response to MPX, the risk to the general public is decreasing and has become very low. The spread has slowed considerably in the past month due to tremendous efforts in vaccination and community health education. Vaccine supply is adequate and available to people who meet current vaccine eligibility criteria. Information about MPX vaccination, along with other helpful information, is available on our website.

The COVID pandemic has strengthened San Mateo County’s public health practice, and we’ll need this collective response to ongoing public health issues, seasonal public health threats like RSV and influenza, and international outbreaks like MPX and Ebola. We are grateful for our health care partners, businesses, and community organizations that continue to promote health and prevent disease for everyone in San Mateo County.

All together better,

Louise Rogers