COVID cases and hospitalizations are ticking up in parts of California, and while there doesn't seem to be evidence of a winter surge starting in the Bay Area, there could be one taking shape around us.

As we enter this depressing second winter of a pandemic that won't end, life is somewhat back to normal in the Bay Area, and some of you may even be reading this from an office computer today. But there are alarm bells about a possible next surge in COVID cases, which will largely impact the unvaccinated though we can't be sure that immunity levels among the vaccinated but not yet boosted are strong enough to slow the spread.

"We’re going to have another surge," says UCSF's Dr. Peter Chin-Hong speaking to the Chronicle this week. "And there will be a lot of disruptions to schools and workplaces, potentially."

Whether this surge significantly impacts the Bay Area, where vaccination rates are relatively high, remains to be seen.

Hospitalizations in the Bay Area are now at their lowest level since mid-July, with 385 COVID patients in local hospitals as of Tuesday. And while the rate of daily new cases may be ticking up in San Francisco, the overall average daily case rate for the Bay Area is only slightly higher than it was in October, and still a quarter of what it was in late August.

Unfortunately, with more indoor social activities happening, and masks coming off at gyms (and most bars), cases have not dipped as low as they got in June and early July, before the Delta surge hit the region.

Chart by SFist
Chart by SFist

As seen in the charts above, the Bay Area is seeing a slight rise in cases on a seven-day average basis, though it does not yet look like a surge, while last week's seven-day average in California showed a significant spike — and the last number that looks like dip back down in the California chart is based on an incomplete week.

Also, the test-positivity rate in California has risen from 1.9% in late October to 2.3% this week. San Francisco's test-positivity rate, by comparison, is 1.48%.

Thankfully, hospitalization numbers continue to go down for the Bay Area, and statewide they have leveled off in recent weeks.

Chart by SFist

According the CDC's tracking map, coastal California is still doing relatively well compared to inland counties and many states around us.

Sacramento County currently has a 4% test-positivity rate and over 100 new daily cases per 100,000 residents, about double San Francisco's current rate.

COVID transmission tracking map via the CDC, Nov. 9, 2021

California's statewide vaccination rate is still at just 63%, while places like Marin County have topped 80% for all ages.

San Francisco's vaccination rate for residents of all ages stands at 76%.

A surge in new cases is already underway in Europe, and Germany just reported 37,120 new infections on Friday, which the largest daily increase that country has seen since the start of the pandemic.

Experts are blaming both vaccine hesitancy and waning immunity from early inoculations — with studies suggesting that breakthrough infections happen more easily starting around the five-month mark after one's second jab of the mRNA vaccines.