Bay Area can’t seem to move past COVID surge: ‘It’s like a slow burn’

Bay Area can’t seem to move past COVID surge: ‘It’s like a slow burn’

COVID-19 cases remain stubbornly high across California despite some indicators earlier this week that the state had moved past the peak of its spring surge, with the Bay Area continuing to outpace other regions with its rate of infections.

“You have new transmissible variants and people being fed up,” said Dr. Peter Chin-Hong, an infectious disease specialist with UCSF. “If people were still being cautious and we had the same variant for a long time, you would have that quick downslope that we saw in the winter. But now all bets are off.”

The statewide number bounced back up on Tuesday with 42 new daily coronavirus cases per 100,000 residents after nearly a month hovering around 35 cases per 100,000.

California has now reported more than 10 million cases since the start of the pandemic, according to state data analyzed by The Chronicle, with the Bay Area crossing the threshold of 1.5 million total cases. And those figures do not include results of widely used home tests that are not reported to officials, nor cases that go undetected.

The state’s test positive rate, which tracks the percentage of tests coming back positive for COVID-19, also increased to 13.2%. That rate has steadily climbed since mid-March and is now nearly double what officials reported on June 1. Infectious disease experts say it should be under 5% to control the spread of the virus.

“You’re just having a steady state of people getting infected,” said Chin-Hong.

While the high volume of cases has not caused excessive strain on the health care system, the number of hospitalizations is steadily rising. There are 3,405 patients hospitalized with COVID-19 across the state, up 46% from the beginning of the month. California is reporting about 15 deaths per day due to the virus.

The Bay Area is currently seeing about 49 infections per day per 100,000 residents. A spate of community events and gatherings, starting with Memorial Day concerts and celebrations through to crowded parades for the Golden State Warriors and San Francisco’s Pride, may keep those numbers high, with fast-spreading offshoots of the omicron coronavirus variant tightening their grip on the region.

Isabel Olascoaga cheers as the people walk down Market Street during the Pride Parade in San Francisco on Sunday, Jun 26, 2022.

Justin Katigbak/Special to The Chronicle

“Whenever you see an outdoor event, there are a lot of indoor gatherings associated with those things,” said Chin-Hong. “There is a lot of spillover from high-risk events, where people gather in bars or go to after-parties.”

BA.4 and BA.5 made up a combined 52% of COVID-19 cases in the United States last week, according to estimates published Tuesday by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The highly transmissible sublineages are crowding out BA.2 and BA.2.12.1, with BA.5 making up about 36.6% of new cases nationally and BA.4 about 15.7%. And experts say they’re responsible for a larger number of COVID reinfections than earlier subvariants due to their ability to evade pre-existing immunity.

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