Hospitalizations of COVID patients in the state of California just declined slightly on Thursday in the first one-day decline since the Omicron surge began, and signs point to hospitalizations peaking this week in San Francisco.

Hopefully health experts' forecasts that the Omicron wave would crest quickly and crash even more quickly in the U.S. is coming to pass. And in California, which some some of the earliest cases in early December, it appears that hospitalizations may be plateauing or starting to decline as we go toward the fourth week of January. Hospitalizations across the state hit 15,393 on Wednesday — five times higher than the figures seen in late December, but still below the peak of around 22,000 in the first week of January 2021. And on Thursday, they went down one-tenth of one percent, to 15,383, after weeks of steady increases. The last one-day decline in the state hospitalization census was on Christmas Eve.

Hospitalizations continue to tick upward in the Bay Area, rising to 2,221 on Thursday, up from 360 on December 1. But local ER doctors and others have cautioned that not all of these patients were admitted for COVID-related illness — it's become very common, doctors say, for patients to come in for treatment for something else and then test positive for COVID, so they're added to the ranks of COVID hospitalizations.

In San Francisco, hospitalizations are up to 284 from just around 200 on January 10, reflecting Omicron's spread following the New Year's holiday and subsequent hospitalizations, as well as hospitalizations with incidental COVID infections.

Red line is California-wide hospitalizations, blue line is Bay Area. Chart by SFist
Chart by SFist

San Francisco's daily tally of new cases — while not really a reliable indicator anymore due to the prevalence of at-home testing and asymptomatic or mild infections that are going unnoticed — has been ticking downward since the post-holiday surge. The seven-day average of new cases peaked at 2,173 two weeks ago, and stood at 1,439 as of January 15.

Mayor London Breed announced Thursday that the peak in SF had passed. And while the hospitalization peak lags behind cases, we could see that number peak any day now. The Department of Public Health suggests the peak will be in the next day or two.

The city's health director, Dr. Grant Colfax, said Thursday that in surge times everyone should be "extra vigilant and layer our defenses," in order to prevent spreading the virus to the most vulnerable.

Photo: Insung Yung