With the Bay Area's ICU capacity now over 23% — a massive improvement from the last reported ICU availability rate of just 6.5% — the region now falls under the state's criteria for leaving its current stay-at-home order.

Pandemic-wise, things are improving in our slice of California. The past seven days have seen the opening of mass vaccinations sites, more COVID-19 vaccine doses coming to the Bay Area, and, chiefly among these positive updates, the region's ICU capacity significantly increasing to 23.6% — prompting some health experts to consider this past surge (and the string of restrictions it's caused) something we can leave in the past.

“I really want to stress this, that I firmly believe this is our last surge and this is the last time that those restrictive lockdowns will occur, because of the availability of the vaccine,” says UCSF Infectious Disease Expert Dr. Monica Gandhi to KPIX. “Because of the new administration and the federal government pushing it out, signing the National Defense Act."

Gandhi also noted to the local news outlet she's encouraged by the region’s ICU availability and has seen COVID-19-related hospitalizations drop at Zuckerberg San Francisco General, where she works.

However, the elephant in the room remains: Will the state's current stay-at-home order be lifted? The Bay Area does, in fact, meet the criteria for it to be removed — but it's not entirely clear when this could occur. (Most of the Bay Area's eleven counties, including the City and County of San Francisco, also have specific COVID-19 restrictions that differ from state-mandated ones, so it's a bit murky which ones may or may not stick around.)

As the Chronicle describes, lifting the present lockdown order would permit the Bay Area to resume activities allowed under the state’s purple tier restrictions; these include such things like outdoor dining, safely mingling with more people outside of your immediate household, and allowing hair salons and other personal care services to resume indoor services.

The state uses a complex formula (that still remains ambiguous, at best) to predict any single region's ICU four-week availability rates. Sacramento region’s order was lifted when its ICU availability was at about 9% — so this is promising news for denizens of the Bay Area.

This update, too, comes after Mayor Breed hinted Friday that some of San Francisco's COVID-19 restrictions could soon loosen as the city's "COVID-19 reproductive rate" continues to drop.

Nevertheless: Don a mask, take social distancing seriously, and for all that's holy in the world... don't jetset to Puerto Vallarta come spring.

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Mass-Vaccination Site Soft-Opens at City College — No Walk-Ups Allowed

Image: Getty Images/beerkoff