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Even as COVID-19 cases plateau, San Mateo County health officials expect difficult weeks ahead

Worksite Labs medical assistant Daisy Valencia cleans a station that a person has just used to self-swab while a colleague directs a Woodside High School student through a COVID-19 test on the Woodside campus on Jan. 10, 2022. Photo by Magali Gauthier.

COVID-19 case rates in San Mateo County may be starting to plateau but health officials say it's not yet time to rest.

San Mateo County Health Chief Louise Rogers said Tuesday that there may still be difficult weeks ahead with tremendous strain on hospitals.

"It's as if we're still at the top of the mountain having to climb down it before we can rest," Rogers said at Tuesday's county Board of Supervisors meeting.

Though the county's hospitalization numbers have stayed steady in the past week, and the 31 patients in the intensive care unit are far fewer than the number of ICU patients during last winter's surge, hospitals have faced staffing shortages in recent weeks.

At the San Mateo Medical Center -- the county's public hospital and clinics -- about 6.5% of staff were out most recently with confirmed or suspected infection or quarantine, according to San Mateo County Health spokesperson Preston Merchant.

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In terms of case numbers, Rogers said community transmission remains high despite the plateau.

"We are starting to see the horizon beyond this current surge with cases starting to plateau in the last week, albeit at very high levels, still higher than other earlier phases of this pandemic," Rogers said.

Rogers said there were on average 213 cases per 100,000 in the population reported Monday, a slight decrease from the 217 per 100,000 a week ago. These are numbers that the state reports as a seven-day average.

And test positivity -- the proportion of positive test results of all the people getting tested -- is at 17%, similar to recent weeks.

Following testing delays, County Manager Mike Callagy said that the county will be ending its partnership with bio-health technology company Virus Geeks at the end of the month.

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Callagy said that Virus Geeks had a supply chain issue with its vendor. In a statement on its website, Virus Geeks said that due to the high testing demand, "we partnered with an outside lab to process excess samples. Unfortunately, the partner lab was unable to turn-around tests results at the same speed that we had provided to our clients and patients over the last year."

With these delays, Callagy said that he thinks in some cases some people never got results and that the county will instead transition to working with another organization to assist with testing.

The county is also coordinating distribution of rapid antigen home test kits to at-risk communities, such as low-income families with children under 5 years old, through the County Office of Education.

Vaccination rates are inching up, as 88% of all county residents have gotten at least one dose of the vaccine.

With more than 75,000 booster shots delivered at the San Mateo County Event Center, Lizelle Lirio de Luna, director of the county's Family Health Services, said that demand for vaccines at that site had gone down slightly but there has been steady uptake in other vaccine sites, such as school and community clinics.

A list of vaccine clinics in San Mateo County is available online at smchealth.org.

De Luna encouraged everyone who is eligible to get the booster to get optimum protection from the virus.

"There's no better time for people to get vaccinations and boosters," de Luna said. "We also want everyone to know that continuing to wear a protective mask that actually fits well and can be worn consistently is also very important, and also to seek a test if symptoms arise and, of course, to isolate if sick."

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Even as COVID-19 cases plateau, San Mateo County health officials expect difficult weeks ahead

by Astrid Casimire / Bay City News Service

Uploaded: Wed, Jan 26, 2022, 11:59 am

COVID-19 case rates in San Mateo County may be starting to plateau but health officials say it's not yet time to rest.

San Mateo County Health Chief Louise Rogers said Tuesday that there may still be difficult weeks ahead with tremendous strain on hospitals.

"It's as if we're still at the top of the mountain having to climb down it before we can rest," Rogers said at Tuesday's county Board of Supervisors meeting.

Though the county's hospitalization numbers have stayed steady in the past week, and the 31 patients in the intensive care unit are far fewer than the number of ICU patients during last winter's surge, hospitals have faced staffing shortages in recent weeks.

At the San Mateo Medical Center -- the county's public hospital and clinics -- about 6.5% of staff were out most recently with confirmed or suspected infection or quarantine, according to San Mateo County Health spokesperson Preston Merchant.

In terms of case numbers, Rogers said community transmission remains high despite the plateau.

"We are starting to see the horizon beyond this current surge with cases starting to plateau in the last week, albeit at very high levels, still higher than other earlier phases of this pandemic," Rogers said.

Rogers said there were on average 213 cases per 100,000 in the population reported Monday, a slight decrease from the 217 per 100,000 a week ago. These are numbers that the state reports as a seven-day average.

And test positivity -- the proportion of positive test results of all the people getting tested -- is at 17%, similar to recent weeks.

Following testing delays, County Manager Mike Callagy said that the county will be ending its partnership with bio-health technology company Virus Geeks at the end of the month.

Callagy said that Virus Geeks had a supply chain issue with its vendor. In a statement on its website, Virus Geeks said that due to the high testing demand, "we partnered with an outside lab to process excess samples. Unfortunately, the partner lab was unable to turn-around tests results at the same speed that we had provided to our clients and patients over the last year."

With these delays, Callagy said that he thinks in some cases some people never got results and that the county will instead transition to working with another organization to assist with testing.

The county is also coordinating distribution of rapid antigen home test kits to at-risk communities, such as low-income families with children under 5 years old, through the County Office of Education.

Vaccination rates are inching up, as 88% of all county residents have gotten at least one dose of the vaccine.

With more than 75,000 booster shots delivered at the San Mateo County Event Center, Lizelle Lirio de Luna, director of the county's Family Health Services, said that demand for vaccines at that site had gone down slightly but there has been steady uptake in other vaccine sites, such as school and community clinics.

A list of vaccine clinics in San Mateo County is available online at smchealth.org.

De Luna encouraged everyone who is eligible to get the booster to get optimum protection from the virus.

"There's no better time for people to get vaccinations and boosters," de Luna said. "We also want everyone to know that continuing to wear a protective mask that actually fits well and can be worn consistently is also very important, and also to seek a test if symptoms arise and, of course, to isolate if sick."

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