COVID-19 case counts continue to decrease around the state and the nation, and experts are split on whether this reflects an actual trend or may be masking some complacency that has led to fewer people being tested. Meanwhile, with the rise of new variants like the more-infectious U.K. strain, there is increased urgency surrounding the vaccine rollout.

10.2% of Bay Area residents have had their first vaccine shot. As of the last available data, nearly 793,000 residents of the nine-county Bay Area have had their first doses of either the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine, which amounts to approximately 10.2% of the population over the age of 16 (the vaccines are only recommended for people 16 and up). San Francisco is ramping up the vaccination process with the new Moscone Center clinic that opened Friday, which will ultimately be able to give out 7,000 to 10,000 shots per day — so with 11% of SF residents currently having had their first shots, the percentage should start rising quickly as long as vaccine supplies keep up. Santa Clara County had already given shots to over 191,000 people, and Alameda County had given shots to over 141,000 people, as of last week. The percentages in each county of people who've received both shots — mostly healthcare workers — are still around 2% or 3%, but those numbers should also start rising quickly.

COVID hospitalizations continue to decrease in the region and across California, and ICU bed availability is rising. As of Sunday, there were 307 available ICU beds open in the Bay Area, according to state data — at the same time there were 368 severely ill COVID patients in ICUs across the Bay Area, far lower than several weeks ago. The total number of Bay Area COVID patients in acute and ICU care reached its lowest figure since December 8, with just over 1,250 as of Sunday — and in San Francisco, hospitalizations have been declining steadily since reaching a peak of 265 on January 9, with Saturday's total in SF being 159, a decline of 40% in one month. Statewide, hospitalizations also dipped Sunday to their lowest total since December 8, with 11,385 currently in hospitals. That still twice as many as were in hospitals on November 23, and about five times as many as the low point of late September. [SFist]

Will San Francisco return to the "Red" or "Orange" tier anytime soon? We'll know on Tuesday whether the state has downgraded San Francisco County's tier statuses from the most restrictive "Purple" tier, and the data is moving in our favor. As of last week, SF's seven-day average percent-positivity rate for COVID tests was just over 3%, but the city was still seeing about 19 new cases per day per 100,000 residents. According to state metrics that adjust downward for testing prevalence, SF stood at 12.5 cases per 100,000 residents, and that number is expected to go down when the updates arrive tomorrow. To qualify for "Red" tier status, that adjusted number has to hit 7 or below.

Dr. Fauci warns that the U.K. variant could be come the dominant strain in the U.S. by late March. He reassured a nervous American public that the two currently approved vaccines are "quite effective" against it, but in order to keep from having mass outbreaks like the U.K. has seen, states have to urgently speed up vaccine distribution. [KRON4]

Related: As New COVID Variants Spread, Experts Recommend Double Masks, More Vigilance

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