One in five COVID tests being administered statewide in California is coming back positive, a new high for the pandemic now in its fourth or fifth major wave, depending on who's counting. And hospitalizations in this winter surge are likely to peak later than they did last winter.
In the Bay Area, hospitalizations crossed the 1,500 mark on Sunday, with 1,543 COVID patients in hospitals across the region. The percentage of those patients in ICUs appears lower, so far, than in last winter's surge, but the numbers continue to climb. And while we have not yet matched the early January 2021 peak of 2,369 hospitalized, all signs point to this peak going higher than that, just a few weeks later.
We are already considerably above the late-summer peak for hospitalizations from the Delta surge.
Case counts continue to skyrocket across the region and the state, and while data has shown that the Omicron variant tends to produce less severe illness, the sheer number of infections promises to still put many people — especially the unvaccinated, immunocompromised, and elderly — in hospitals in the coming month.
As the Chronicle reports, the state hit a test-positivity rate of 22% on January 5, a new high in the pandemic to date. And in the Bay Area, the seven-day average of new cases hit 137 per 100,000 residents, up from just 11 per 100,000 in early December.
Governor Gavin Newsom spoke Monday about the hospitalization level across the state, which hit 11,048 as of Sunday. That is still half the peak of last January at this time, but Newsom sees the number potentially doubling in three weeks. The hospitalization number has already tripled since early December, and state officials are saying it could peak at 23,000 by early February.
"So it gives you a sense of where we are. It’s manageable, but it’s challenging," Newsom said.
Zuckerberg SF General CEO Dr. Susan Ehrlic tells the Chronicle, "We’ve never seen anything quite like this during the surges we’ve had so far. Every emergency department, every hospital in the city is impacted by the current omicron surge." And she added that about 400 of the hospital's staff was out sick themselves.
This only underscores the admonition from the city's Department of Public Health over the weekend that people not seek out COVID tests at emergency rooms, which are already overwhelmed as it is. The scarcity of tests, either at-home kits or PCR appointment slots, is making this difficult for many.
Compounding the testing chaos, DPH announced late Monday that it was shutting down four of its major testing sites because the vendor, Color, is experiencing a nationwide computer meltdown. Earlier, the department announced that hours at the sites would be curtailed this week due to staffing and other issues.
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