My COVID-19 update this week is coming on the day that the statewide requirement including in San Mateo County for masking for fully vaccinated residents in indoor settings comes to an end.
Masking requirements remain in place for everyone on public transportation, in schools and childcare settings, long term care and adult and senior care facilities, healthcare and correctional settings. Yesterday, Dr. Mark Ghaly, California’s Secretary of Health and Human Services, shared that the State will reassess the requirement for masking within school settings on February 28th.
I want to acknowledge that the decision to sunset the masking order for fully vaccinated residents and retain it for some sectors is landing differently for residents and partner entities as we all continue to navigate the roles we play to protect ourselves and the community. We understand that the varied views on this can reflect different positions of vulnerability and risk exposure. As the nature of the pandemic changes and the State and counties step back from using health officer powers to order and regulate, you will see us in County Health return to the more traditional role of public health of offering guidance and recommendations. We also recognize that many residents, businesses, and entities operating in our County are well-positioned to understand and balance the risks for their respective environments and stakeholders.
We appreciate that the Statewide order includes the recommendation that we echo that “Fully vaccinated individuals… continue indoor masking when the risk may be high.” The CDC’s masking guidance remains helpful as so much of the country is looking to public health for advice.
In addition to the guidance that we offer on mask-wearing, that it is not too late to be vaccinated and boosted, to seek a test if exposed and isolate if sick, it is vital that we continue to focus on the protection of the populations that continue to bear disproportionate burdens from COVID-19, from other underlying health conditions, and from work and living environments that are riskier. We are grateful for our community partnerships in reinforcing the importance of an equity lens in our COVID-19 mitigation approach, our recovery framework, and all that we do to address the root causes of inequities that the pandemic has laid bare.
The level of virus transmission remains high but has come down considerably from an early January peak with our 7-day lagged case rate average reported by the State yesterday at 49 cases per 100K in the population, compared to 85 a week ago. This is an average of 382 new COVID-19 cases per day compared to 663 new cases per day in last week’s data. Since our 7-day peak of 239 cases/100K population on January 8th, our case rate has declined by 79%. Our current case activity keeps us in the CDC’s “high” level of community transmission. Test positivity rates countywide (7%) and in the Health Equity Quartile census tracts (11.6%) are declining and the positivity gap is also narrowing in the 7-day lagged data that goes through Feb 5th. The testing level reported by the State yesterday (incorporating a 7-day lag) was 1146 tests per day per 100K population.
As of yesterday, the census of hospitalized COVID-19 patients this past week has ranged from 55 to 77, compared to a range of 84 to 100+ a week ago. The number of residents we are serving in the hotels that offer safe isolation has also decreased to between 21 and 37 per day during the last week.
We learned last Friday that Pfizer is postponing its FDA application for emergency use authorization (EUA) for its vaccine for children between the ages of six months and four years. In the meantime, for all other age groups, we continue to focus on reaching those who have not been vaccinated or boosted through convenient offerings throughout the county. We are planning to adjust what we offer at some of our current “radically convenient” locations to incorporate some predictable offerings for the 5-11 year old group for which we have sizable gaps in reach and to keep closing gaps in booster reach.
Our overall County vaccination rate (including all eligible and ineligible residents) is currently at 89% for those who have received at least one dose and 82% for those who are fully vaccinated. As of February 13th, a total of 689,148 residents have received at least one shot. The population groups in which we have not yet reached 80% to have received a first shot includes kids ages 5-11 (64%), the Black population (64%), the Latin-x population (71%) and the Pacific Islander population (61%).
The number of residents who have received a COVID-19 booster has now surpassed 404,000. It is great to see that 80% (97,384) of the 65+ population that is fully vaccinated has received a booster. We continue to monitor as more data and recommendations related to boosters become available. In the meantime, we encourage all eligible residents receive a booster to maintain optimal protection.
Yesterday we were thrilled to launch an advertising campaign promoting vaccination among residents not yet vaccinated as the result of a partnership among County Health, the Health Plan of San Mateo, and the County Manager’s Office. Thirty-second television commercials in Spanish and English will air on cable networks targeting Latinx viewers. Messages will feature four rationales (“Because your doctor says it’s vital”; “Because we’re still at risk from new variants and mutations”; “Because billions of people have been vaccinated safely”; “Because you know someone who died from this virus”), the campaign stresses that it’s not too late to get vaccinated: “The COVID-19 vaccine can protect you and your family.” The ads will run through April and are expected to be seen by 950,000 viewers. Advertising on radio and streaming stations begins on February 28 and will run for a month, reaching 1.37 million listeners. Advertising on transit shelters and SamTrans buses begins in late March and is expected to be seen by 10 million riders, commuters, and others.
We appreciate your support and the collaboration of many that continues to fuel a steady and sustained approach to reaching each one of our residents.
All Together Better,
Louise F. Rogers