COVID-19 transmission rates are back up to the medium level in some Bay Area counties, according to the CDC.
In San Mateo County, the positivity rate is near 6% with nearly 800 new cases in the past day, but what they’re not seeing is the ICU hospital beds filled with COVID patients for the most severe cases.
In many cases, infection rates are even higher than they were during the height of the delta variant. But health officials say the new BA.2 variant that’s infecting most people now is not causing as many severe illnesses.
“At the peak of the delta surge, we had 25 people in the hospital, in Marin County, 10 in ICU,” said Marin County Public Health Officer Dr. Matt Willis. “Right now, we’re seeing only six total in the hospital, none in the ICU.”
So despite the infectious nature of this variant, many people are feeling safer now about being out in public, even maskless.
“I think it’s pretty safe,” said Avash Pardhootman of San Francisco. “Hospitalizations and deaths are low, so … I think it’s looking upwards for the world, and everyone as whole.”
And it took a lot for Pardhootman to get there after losing his father to COVID in 2021.
For a long time, it seemed like things may never turn around.
“It did for a while, especially when things were crazy, peak pandemic – but now I think the outlook is much different,” said Pardhootman.
One of the Bay Area’s top experts on COVID says she’s started to return to a more normal lifestyle despite a rise in cases in some areas.
“I have two children. They’re vaccinated. I’m vaccinated and boosted – and we have been living – and I’ll tell you I was on a plane last week when they dropped the mask mandates and not very many people are masking on planes,” said Dr. Monica Gandhi of UCSF.
Gandhi said people should feel safer because 60% of the population has now been exposed to the virus and 75% of kids under the age of 17 have built up natural antibodies. But she said COVID is here to stay.
“For one thing, it’s in 29 species of animals,” said Gandhi. “It’s not going to go away. But, what we have to do is prevent severe disease – and we have very high levels of immunity in the Bay Area – so we have to start living with it.”
But some people aren’t quite ready to drop the masks just yet and will rely on testing and keep to their small circles until they feel more comfortable that the worst of covid is behind us for good.
“I work in the public, and I don’t know where everyone has been, so it’s better to be safe than sorry – for now at least,” said Nisha Aeri of Belmont.
And with large gatherings for proms, Mother’s Day and graduations on the horizon, Marin County’s health leader is still warning people to be wise about masking and getting tested before those big get-togethers.
“They’re easily available. They’re accurate. In terms of positive – treat it as a positive result,” said Dr. Willis.