After a worrying upward trend last month, Bay Area counties have seen COVID-19 transmission rates fall, and the state generally sees hopeful signs of improvement heading into the holidays – although outbreaks are worsening in large parts of the country.
Governor Gavin Newsom noted the progress when he visited a vaccine clinic in San Francisco on Monday to encourage more people to get shots. But he also sounded a cautious tone as infections continued with a sharp upward trend nationally in the Upper Midwest and Northeast as well as in Europe, suggesting an impending winter rise.
“A few weeks ago, we saw some worrying signs with increasing cases, positivity increases, hospitalizations and intensive care units increasing,” Newsom said. “That said, we’ve seen some stability in the last 10 or 11 days. Some good signs. That’s good news.”
Newsom said by 1.9% that California now has the lowest rate of positive testing for the virus in the United States, and the pathogen’s effective reproduction rate has dropped to 0.91. A number lower than 1 indicates that it is not spreading.
California left the U.S. Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s high red transmission level for the virus Monday. It is now the only state outside the southeast at the orange significant transmission level where the rest of the country sees a higher spread.
Other Bay Area counties have now joined San Francisco in the CDC’s yellow moderate level of virus transmission, after getting stuck in orange earlier this month.
“We’re seeing a decline,” Newsom said. “It’s encouraging. We’re starting to see a decline in hospital admissions and intensive care units again, and we’re also seeing some stability in our case frequency.”
Newsom credited the state’s turn to a willingness on the part of many residents to wear face masks to reduce the spread of the virus and to get vaccines and boosters.
“It’s because of the good work that you have all done for many, many months to put a lid on this virus, to get us through this winter and the prospect of an increase,” said Newsom. “So we are here to celebrate that kind of success, but soberly and humbly, and to remind people of the importance of not failing their guard, the importance of face clothing, the importance of continuing to promote efficiency and promote safety by these life-saving vaccines. “
Newsom also noted that 27 states have seen the case rate increase by 10% or more in the past week. The CDC reported Friday that the level of societal transmission of the virus in the United States remains high and that the 7-day average of daily new cases had risen 16.1% from the week before.
Health experts believe that the virus is more transmissible in winter, both because the weather conditions are more favorable for its survival, and colder weather causes more people to gather indoors, where they are more likely to be in close contact with others in poorly ventilated areas and spread the virus.
The new rise in cases nationwide is coming at a complicated time. Last Thanksgiving, before vaccines became available, federal and local officials had urged Americans to forgo holiday gatherings. Now, public health officials, including Dr. Anthony Fauci, the country’s leading expert in infectious diseases, mostly suggested that vaccinated people can be gathered in relative safety.
Although the CDC says that the unvaccinated are 5.8 times more likely to test positive for COVID-19 and 14 times more likely to die from it than the vaccinated, their protection has its limitations, especially with the highly transmissible delta variant, which now dominates in the OS
The vaccinated can also become infected and transmit the virus, and the declining protection of the shoots has prompted a campaign for further booster shots for all American adults.
Over the summer, as COVID-19 cases spread like wildfire across the Southeast, health experts blamed these states’ reluctance to impose requirements on face masks or vaccines. But now, surprisingly, these states have the lowest cases in the country, and the virus is spreading in the more vaccinated and masked north.
Minnesota’s total population, for example, is about 62.1% vaccinated, roughly equal to California’s 62.8%. But Minnesota’s case rate per. 100,000 people over the last seven days is 524.5, nearly seven times California’s 75.8. The state of New York, with 68.1% of its total population vaccinated, has a case rate of 325.6.
The course of the virus in Europe, where Austria is heading into a lockdown and some areas of Germany have closed Christmas markets, has created fears about how high case numbers could rise in the US.
Dr. George Rutherford, an infectious disease specialist at the University of California-San Francisco, said the natural immunity people gain after recovering from infection also plays a role in keeping the number of cases low in places like the Southeast, which are coming. after a hard summer eruption. How durable this immunity will be is unclear, but infections in other parts of the United States are mostly among the unvaccinated.
Rutherford said California appears to be in much better shape heading into the Thanksgiving holiday than last year, when infections “took off like a rocket.” It remains “an open question” how much the shots will dampen infections and hospitalizations this year, but they will be concentrated among the unvaccinated, he said.
“We need to get people boosted and have to get 5-11 year olds vaccinated,” Rutherford said. “We do the things we’re going to be in very good shape.”
The New York Times News Service contributed to this report.