First local case of South Africa strain
California's first confirmed cases of the South Africa coronavirus variant have been identified in Santa Clara and Alameda counties, health officials announced Feb. 10.
The Stanford Clinical Virology Lab identified two cases, one in each county, as the B.1.351 variant of SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19.
The patients in both cases have recovered. Dr. Sara Cody, Santa Clara County's health officer and director of public health, said the case in her county involved a person who had returned from international travel in mid-January and first experienced symptoms several days later. A traveling partner also got sick but recovered before being tested for the disease; that person, who lives in the same household, is presumed to have had the mutated virus as well.
Health officials are trying to piece together where the person who tested positive might have contracted the disease. The case is complicated by the pattern of travel the pair engaged in.
There is little evidence so far that the case spread beyond the pair. They followed Santa Clara County's 10-day mandatory quarantine after travel of more than 150 miles outside the county and were isolated in their apartment for the entire infectious period, Cody said.
"This is an important example of how public health measures can help break the chain of transmission and why it is critical that we as a community continue to avoid travel and quarantine upon return," Cody said.
Dr. Nicholas Moss, Alameda County's health officer, said little is yet known about the case in his county other than the identity of the patient. His staff is investigating how the person contracted the variant and whether the patient came into contact with others.
The South Africa strain, so called because it has become the dominant coronavirus variant in that country, and the Brazilian P1 strain are troubling because they have multiple mutations that could make vaccines and immunity from the currently dominant COVID-19 strain less effective.
Teachers, food workers to get vaccine priority
On Feb. 22, San Mateo County will begin performing COVID-19 vaccinations to teachers and child care providers, first responders and food and agricultural workers who are eligible under the state's Phase 1B, as supply allows.
"People are understandably clamoring for the vaccine, and we need to move as swiftly as possible to make that happen as soon as possible," Supervisor Carole Groom said in a statement Feb. 11. "We must do everything we can under the constraints we have to limit the enormity of the pandemic as COVID-19 continues to ravage our community."
The county intends to provide the vaccine to eligible residents in this group who can't be served by their health care provider. Certain grocery store employees are considered agricultural workers eligible for the vaccine under the state's Phase 1B, according to the county.
The county is currently vaccinating people in the 65-plus age group, health care workers, and residents of long-term care facilities. As of this week, the county has administered at least one dose to one-third of residents ages 65 and up, according to a county press release. Eighty-four percent of the county's 447 COVID-19 deaths are people in this age group, a statistic that has heightened efforts to vaccinate them.
"Getting vaccines into the arms of San Mateo County residents is our highest and most urgent priority," Supervisor Dave Pine said in a statement. "While we are doing everything possible to ensure everyone who is eligible for the vaccine receives one, we are facing serious supply limitations that complicate our efforts. We ask for patience and understanding in these very trying times."
SFO launches drive-thru vaccine clinic
A vaccination clinic at San Francisco International Airport launched a drive-thru COVID-19 vaccination pilot program open to all San Mateo County residents 65 years and older, regardless of insurance.
The clinic was held Wednesday and Friday morning at the SFO Long Term Parking Garage, 806 S. Airport Blvd.
"We need to end COVID and partnering with SFO will allow us to do just that. If this pilot proves successful, as I'm sure it will, it will allow us to scale up the operation at one of the nation's greatest airports as more of the vaccine becomes available," said county Supervisor David Canepa in a statement.
The SFO clinic, which began Feb. 12, was previously limited to residents covered under the Health Plan of San Mateo or those with no other access to the vaccine. County officials decided on Feb. 14 to expand the clinic's reach to fill remaining appointments. Canepa said he could imagine the airport clinic being able to offer vaccinations "round the clock, 24/7, just like it accommodates its international travelers."
Preston Merchant, spokesman for San Mateo County Health, said that the county anticipates that 12,000 residents will have been vaccinated at the SFO clinic by the end of Friday, Feb. 19.
As of Feb. 15, 109,793 county residents have received at least the first dose of the vaccine, representing 17.1% of individuals 16 years and older in the county.
People needing support can contact (650) 263-1867 or email email@example.com. To learn more about COVID-19 vaccination in San Mateo County, visit smchealth.org.
Comprehensive COVID-19 coverage
View interactive charts tracking the spread of the coronavirus in San Mateo and Santa Clara counties online at paloaltoonline.atavist.com/tracking-the-coronavirus. Find a comprehensive collection of coverage on the Midpeninsula's response to the new coronavirus by The Almanac and its sister publications, Palo Alto Online, and the Mountain View Voice, at tinyurl.com/c19-Almanac.
CalMatters and Bay City News Service contributed to this report.
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