In this summer's Delta variant surge, California has succeeded in being one of just three states to no longer be in the "high" transmission category for COVID-19, along with Vermont and Connecticut.
Much like the California Department of Public Health's former color-tier categorizations, the CDC now has these categories for the nation, and for weeks now, all 50 states have been in the red-coded "high" transmission tier. California, Vermont, and Connecticut are now moving down to the "substantial," or orange tier. This puts us on the road back to the yellow-coded or "moderate" tier, where we were in early July, and hopefully the blue or "low" tier where we were in June.
State epidemiologist Dr. Erica Pan spoke in a panel discussion Tuesday, as reported by the Chronicle, and said that vaccination rates have helped us, as well as high rates of compliance with changing public health orders.
"Our mitigation measures, like masking, are going to work regardless of the variant," Pan said.
Back in late July, when the CDC updated its mask mandate in light of the Delta variant, it recommended masks indoors for all areas with "high" or "substantial" transmission rates, regardless of vaccination status.
California had to drive transmission levels down to between 50 and 99 new cases per day per 100,000 residents. The seven-day average of new cases in San Francisco hit 95 as of September 9, which amounts to 10.9 cases per 100,000 — a number that would have still would have qualified our county for "Purple" tier status under the state's framework of a few months ago. Back in early May, San Francisco was averaging just 26 new cases per day, or 1.8 per 100,000, before the Delta variant came and ruined everything.
"I do think that this virus, and certainly Delta, finds our most vulnerable," Pan said. "I would like to say to our unvaccinated, 'You do have a choice. Your choice is to get infected at some point or to get vaccinated.'"
Across the Bay Area, daily new cases have been declining as well, and hospitalization numbers have been dropping since leveling off in late August. After reaching a peak of 1,195 COVID patients in Bay Area hospitals on August 25, the hospital census across the region has dropped to 918, which is still higher than at any time since mid-February.
New COVID outbreaks are now concentrated in the south — even while things seem to be calming down in Florida and Louisiana. Kentucky, Tennessee, and Georgia are now seeing major upticks in new cases, likely being driven in part by kids getting infected at school, college kids getting back to partying, and these states' lack of mask or vaccine mandates.
Still, due to the major surge of the last two months, ICUs in Texas, Florida, Alabama, and Mississippi are either full or overfull, with Alabama saying that it has no ICU beds currently available.
As one emergency room doctor in Lexington, Kentucky, Dr. Ryan Stanton, tells the Associated Press, entire families are being infected, and one-third of all new cases in the state are now in kids under 18.
"The problem now is we have been trying to educate based on science, but I think most of the education that is happening now is based on tragedy, personal tragedy," Stanton said.
Top image via the CDC