October 14, 2021 – Message from the Chief
Louise Rogers, chief, San Mateo County Health
We see our community’s collective determination reflected in the high reach of the COVID-19 vaccine, the many pathways being accessed for third-shot Pfizer boosters, and the COVID-19 case rate, hospitalization and positivity trends trending downward.
We are so grateful for all the ways our residents continue to further this progress and stay engaged about changes to our situation.
I want to make you aware of a correction to our vaccination data that will result in lowering the total number of San Mateo County vaccinated residents by around 36,000. This in turn reduces our reach metric to just under 90% of eligible residents having received at least one vaccine rather than the 94+% we have reported recently, around a five percentage point difference. During the past month, our staff have been working through a data discrepancy between what we and the state report about our vaccination reach in the county. We discovered that our process for synthesizing state data for our local reporting was flawed, which has resulted in diminished accuracy of the vaccination information on our dashboards. The root of this is that we were not capturing all the changes in the state vaccination data registry in our daily downloads and reports. Because we were downloading incremental updates that showed new local vaccinations but not demographic updates that included removing duplicates and correcting address data, the net result is a cumulative decrease in the count of vaccinated San Mateo County residents since December 2020. Each of the dashboards that display vaccination reach statistics is now being adjusted to reflect the more accurate counts, and our process for downloading the data has been corrected to improve the accuracy of the data we publish daily.
I am not including vaccine reach data in this week’s update as we adjust the data dashboards on our website. The dashboards will reflect the corrected methodology later today for those who are interested to see the details in each of the five dashboards with vaccination information.
Our team has reviewed whether the change is significant in estimated reach within the communities of concern that have been our priority focus during the last several weeks. They found that the changes are around or less than five percentage points. We do see a few of the groups of focus that were just over 80% of eligible vaccinated now falling under; for example, the 12-15 year old age group was the most recent group to become eligible, and today’s data update will reflect a 78% vaccination rate for that group compared to an 82% vaccination rate in the data reported as of October 13. We recognize that trust in us requires full transparency in relaying data problems like this one and we want to fully explain what occurred and our next steps.
Our most recent experience of the virus in San Mateo County
Our most recent experience of the virus in San Mateo County continues to move in a positive direction: our 7-day lagged average reported October 13th was 5.6 new cases per day per 100K in the population, which is down from the 8-case figure I shared one week ago. This is an average of 44 new COVID-19 cases per day, compared to 62 per day in my last report. We continue to monitor test positivity both countywide (1.1%) and in the Healthy Places Index lowest quartile census tracts (1.5%). Our testing was reported by the State yesterday at 787 tests per day per 100K population.
We are glad to see hospitalizations due to COVID-19 in San Mateo County have continued to remain relatively low, with a census of between 10 and 24 each of the last seven days. The risk of hospitalization due to COVID-19 is 10 times greater for those who are unvaccinated, so we continue to urge COVID-19 vaccination for all who are eligible as the most important action to take to protect oneself and the community.
The Bay Area Health Officers’ establishment of trigger metrics helps us understand what thresholds we need to reach to be at a level that is safe enough to remove the indoor mask mandate. The metrics will also reveal when we have achieved a next level of safety that we didn’t have when the indoor mask mandate was implemented.
Our County Health website will include a new dashboard that allows the public to track these metrics by next week.
With the federal government slated to review data and the Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) requests for Moderna and Johnson & Johnson boosters today and tomorrow, we are planning to offer those boosters at our existing community clinics and SMC Event Center clinic once approved. We know all the major health care systems and pharmacies are also offering boosters. Currently we are offering first, second and Pfizer booster doses at community clinics across the County and the SMC Event Center to for those who are eligible. Residents can see the dates and times in MyTurn or our website. Appointments are encouraged but not required.
The FDA also scheduled its committee’s meeting for October 26th to discuss Pfizer’s request for Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) for its vaccine for children ages 5-11. We are expecting that COVID-19 vaccines will be approved for the 5–11 year old population under Emergency Use Authorization some time in November. With pediatric providers and local pharmacies and in coordination with our San Mateo County Office of Education partners, we are preparing for our role in reaching this newly eligible group. Once the federal review has been completed, we know it will be important for local pediatric leaders and community leaders to whom families turn for trustful information to be able to reinforce the safety of the vaccine for children.
While we continue to support the administration of boosters and eventually the pediatric COVID-19 vaccine, we will remain focused on reaching those residents who have not yet obtained a first dose of the vaccine. We are grateful for the feedback shared by community representatives in the Coastside communities (El Granada, Moss Beach, Loma Mar) that our data continue to have gaps, as well as those in the Broadmoor community who promoted a pop-up vaccine clinic at the Broadmoor Community Center on October 2nd. Given the data limitations in measuring vaccination reach in these areas with small populations as well as the feedback we received, we will no longer be reporting weekly that these four communities are under-reached geographies. We appreciate continuing to learn from those with deep knowledge of these communities.
All Together Better,
Louise F. Rogers