Loosening restrictions. A new, highly transmissible subvariant. So here we are.
More than two years after anyone with any sense went into hibernation in a global effort to stem the tide of a novel coronavirus, Bay Area health officials say we are in the midst of a fifth (or sixth depending on how you count) surge. Or wave. Or whatever. Santa Clara County Health Officer Dr. Sara Cody told CBS Bay Area recently that there was debate among her colleagues on whether to call our current predicament a “swell” or a “wave.” She gave a wry chuckle and said, “I’m calling it a swell wave.” Dr. Curtis Chan, deputy health officer for San Mateo County, told the Los Angeles Times last week that he expects a “small surge.”
Point is, the pandemic isn’t over, folks. This despite all those YouTube videos of giddy travelers tossing their masks on commercial airplanes and crowded indoor NBA arenas filled with screaming fans. In fact, a subvariant of the BA.2 virus — known as BA2.12.1 — is spreading faster than any variant to date. That is leading to another term of art, “immune escape,” wherein those of us who might have thought we had immunity due to vaccinations or previous exposure learn how wrong we were.
Thankfully, this isn’t May of 2020 or even May 0f 2021, when vaccinations began to take hold. Today, 91 percent of county residents are vaccinated. While hospital stays are increasing, they aren’t exploding. That is why health experts are not — at least not yet — ordering us back into our sanitized bunkers.
This time, though cases are on the rise and the Bay Area is California’s hotspot, most experts are saying that people who have taken precautions can more or less go about their day. You’ve heard it before: vaccinate, boost and wear a mask in some situations. Stanford epidemiologist Jorge Salinas told NPR last week that we can live our lives, we just need to be “slightly careful.” For him, that means wearing a mask in crowded indoor spaces. That jibes with the current recommendation from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which suggests those at higher risk from infection “consider” wearing a mask indoors.
While case rates are surging (or waving or whatever), they appear to be nowhere near as high as they were in January, when the 220,000 new cases a day was multiples higher than today’s levels. Of course, that could just be a function of fewer positive test reports as infected people perhaps test at home and tell no one in
authority. It should also be noted that some believe San Mateo County’s relatively high case count — a seven-day average of about 258 cases — is a result of relatively rigorous testing in our affluent community with relatively better health care.
None of this is very comforting, but such is the human condition.
The takeaway is that we need to remain vigilant and constantly monitor public health authorities who have earned our trust at the CDC and state and local health departments.
— Clay Lambert