For the past six weeks, the number of people in Bay Area hospitals with COVID-19 infections has gone down and up and down again, but hovered in the 300 to 400 range consistently instead of steadily dropping. This is despite widespread vaccinations in all counties, and an increasing percentage of residents who are fully vaccinated.
The number of hospitalizations — patients with both confirmed and suspected COVID infections — across the Bay Area stood at 332 on Tuesday. This was up slightly from Monday's number, but since early April, the numbers have been stubbornly consistent.
In San Francisco, the hospital census fell from 30 on April 1, to 23 on May 11 (with 5 people in ICU beds), hitting a low of 17 on April 29, according to data from the city and state. San Mateo County, to the south, has seen similarly consistent numbers, with 19 patients hospitalized on April 1, and 18 hospitalized as of yesterday.
The nine-county Bay Area had a total of 376 patients in the hospital on April 1. The number fell to a low of 317 a week later, on April 8, but it has bounced up and down and generally plateaued, hitting 332 yesterday. This means that the number sick COVID patients in local hospitals is about the same as it was during the fall lull when case numbers were low, and slightly higher than last May or June, before the summer surge.
The LA Times reported last week that hospitalizations statewide hit a promising new low of 1,555 patients — lower than at any time since the state has been tracking hospitalization numbers, which began on March 30, 2020. At the time, over a year ago, there were already over 1,600 COVID patients in hospitals. Statewide, this marks a significant and fairly consistent drop since the beginning of April, when there were over 2,100 patients in hospitals, but the state's number has also been consistent over the past seven days, hitting 1,534 on Tuesday.
"Hospitalizations are at the lowest levels of the pandemic since we’ve been measuring," SF Public Health Director Dr. Grant Colfax said in recent remarks to the San Francisco Health Commission. "After 15 months of this pandemic, we are in a much better place."
But as local health officers have said since the start of the pandemic, the Bay Area moves as one when it comes to public health. And while San Francisco's hospitalization number has dropped fairly low, it is still not zero — and over in Alameda County the number has also been stubbornly consistent for six weeks, hitting 120 on Tuesday (it was 117 on April 1).
We are not yet one month out from the date on which all Californians over the age of 16 became eligible for vaccinations, which means many young people are not yet fully immunized. According to city data, 75% of San Francisco adults and teens 16-18 have received at least one shot as of Tuesday — and 57% are fully vaccinated.
And while the number of daily new cases in SF remains low, the consistent number of people turning up very sick in hospitals in the last six weeks points to what experts have been saying about reaching herd immunity, and how difficult that may actually be.