EXCLUSIVE: CA’s chief epidemiologist explains why Bay Area is state’s COVID hotspot
“Cases are going up in places that have less natural immunity, and that would be unfortunately here in California because we were much more locked down than other states,” said Dr. Monica Gandhi, UCSF infectious diseases specialist.
The last time California experienced a similar COVID surge of this size was summer of 2021.
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Alameda is one of the counties with the highest number of COVID case rates in the Bay Area, with over 16,000 positive cases per 100,000 people. The county’s health officer is calling this the fifth major wave.
“The numbers are up and some of it just reflects that there is a lot of COVID circulating in our communities. Not necessarily reflecting severe disease,” said Dr. Nicholas Moss, Alameda County Health Officer. He added, “My concern is that in the future we could see a new variant that is able to cause a lot of severe disease and put people back in the hospital in high numbers.”
ABC7 News went to Zuckerberg SF General Hospital, where Dr. Chris Colwell, chief of the Emergency Department, is noticing a small increase in hospitalizations, which includes people who have COVID and those who got infected while in the hospital.
“We do have an uptick in the last week or so. So we have 11-12 in the hospital, two which are in the ICU. Which is a little higher than it was a couple weeks ago,” said Dr. Colwell.
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Dr. Colwell said his biggest concern now is not as much hospitalizations because numbers are not increasing at high rates, but his staff getting infected.
“The number of people that are out and cannot work because they have COVID. We have staff, nurses, and physicians, everybody who is getting COVID and therefore can’t work. So our biggest challenge is getting people to staff the emergency department,” said Dr. Colwell.
Dr. Gandhi, UCSF infectious diseases specialist, said this surge was expected.
“It’s so expected. It was seen in New York, UK saw it, Europe saw it,” said Dr. Gandhi, who added, “So we are going to see this BA2.12.1 probably peak at the beginning of June, according to these models. And then by the third week of June we should be out of this.”
Dr. Gandhi said California in a much better place now for a surge of this size.
“We have high rates of vaccination. Higher than almost any other state and then also any immunity that we are getting now even from cases on top of having vaccine induced immunity is just making our rate of severe disease even lower. So we have to go through this period,” said Dr. Gandhi.
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