Health officials agree: We’re in for a long, deadly winter as the coronavirus continues to spread across the country. With a vaccine on the horizon, county health officials are calling these coming months “the 20th mile in the marathon” and the most difficult stretch of the pandemic. Here is what you need to know about local data and the most important precautions to take this winter.
What is the trend in the county and on the Coastside?
Local numbers from the county and Coastside reflect what’s going on across the state: cases are rising at levels higher than ever before.
Over one week mid-November, the case rate in the county doubled to 10.4 new cases per day per 100,000 residents. While case rates among senior populations have stabilized in the county, the positivity rate among residents ages 20 to 49 is showing the biggest rise, and Latino residents continue to make up around half of all cases.
“We have not seen these numbers in a while,” County Manager Mike Callagy said.
As of last Friday, county data shows Pacifica with 281 confirmed cases, nearly 72 cases for every 10,000 residents. In Half Moon Bay, 332 positive cases have been reported, with 261 cases for every 10,000 residents. As of last week, city of Half Moon Bay officials reported less than 1 percent positivity rate among those tested by the city.
What is the status of closures?
After metrics worsened earlier this month, San Mateo County has entered the red tier, closing bars, further reducing the allowed capacity of businesses and moving officework remotely. The state has also issued a travel advisory, a new mandate to wear face covering at nearly all times and guidelines to keep gatherings safe, short, stable and small.
Callagy said county residents should be preparing for a potential move into the purple tier at any moment. Under the purple tier, additional businesses will close or move outdoors and under a new state order, nonessential work will be suspended between 10 p.m. and 5 a.m.
What are the most high-risk activities?
County Health Deputy Chief Srija Srinivasan said contact tracing has found that case spikes are not associated with any given business in the county, but rather social gatherings.
“Pandemic fatigue appears to be real but we need to find the resolve to get through these tough weeks,” Srinivasan said.
County health officials warned that a negative test should not be used as an indication that it is safe to meet in groups without precautions. County health officials are actively discouraging residents from getting tested to see family over the holidays.
“We want people to understand that the test is a snapshot of time as of you driving through that line,” Callagy said. “Please do not think of this as an indication that you are OK to gather in groups because you tested negative.”
What is the county’s hospital and ICU capacity?
The good news, county officials say, is that health care providers are now better equipped to handle a spike in cases with contact tracing and personal protective equipment in place. Testing has increased by more than 100 percent and the county is available to help residents isolate.
“The difference now is we’re more prepared for this surge than we were early on,” Callagy said.
County data shows 36 patients currently being treated for COVID-19 at county hospitals with 269 beds and 88 ventilators available.
“We have a lot of capacity, we have a lot of room available,” Callagy said. “We hope we never have to use it.”