The Omicron surge has shown signs of peaking and/or declining in multiple parts of the country, and in the Bay Area it is definitely receding, along with hospitalizations.

As of Tuesday, February 1, San Francisco is letting people take their masks off again at gyms and offices and in other "stable cohorts" — so long as everyone is fully vaccinated, which is now defined as two mRNA shots plus a third booster shot.

And getting a booster if you haven't already IS IMPORTANT. Dr. Christopher Colwell, the chief of emergency medicine at Zuckerberg General Hospital, tells ABC7 this week that one trend he's seeing with COVID hospitalizations among the vaccinated is that they were not boosted — even though the vast majority of COVID hospitalizations are still among the unvaccinated.

You also will not be able to attend indoor mega-events in San Francisco, such as Warriors games, unless you are boosted, starting today.

The trend in hospitalizations going down tracks with cases having peaked in the Bay Area around the first week of the new year — with hospitalizations expected to peak about two to three weeks after such a surge. The same trend line can be seen across the state as well, with hospital numbers declining steadily over the last week.

Chart by SFist
Chart by SFist

UCSF's Dr. Bob Wachter is predicting that we will reach the stage of "regionally endemic" COVID in about four weeks, so by the end of February.

As he tells ABC 7, "I'm pretty comfortable predicting that that will be where we go. That puts us at least in a regional endemic state meaning that is not dominating people's lives. People can begin letting down their guard and doing some things they haven't done before."

Wachter this week noted that SF had "turned a corner" with Omicron, and that hospitalizations were already down 10% as of Sunday. He added that case-positivity among the asymptomatic arriving in hospitals was around 16% 10 days ago, but by the end of last week it was down to about 4%.

Wachter suggests further that if you're in a room of 20 strangers, there's about a 50% chance one person is COVID-positive now in San Francisco — but if you're wearing an N95 mask your risk of getting infected is nearly zero.

He says he's not ditching his mask yet, for that reason.

In the New York Times, a scholar who wrote a book about the 1918 influenza pandemic points out a fact that is not much discussed: the lingering waves that lasted in some American cities well into 1920, leading to more death.

"A variant that emerged in 1920 was lethal enough that it should have counted as a fourth wave," writes Tulane University Professor John M. Barry. "But virtually no city responded in 1920. People were weary of influenza, and so were public officials. Newspapers were filled with frightening news about the virus, but no one cared. People at the time ignored this fourth wave; so did historians. The virus mutated into ordinary seasonal influenza in 1921, but the world had moved on well before."

"We should not repeat that mistake," Barry warns. "The immediate future still depends on the virus and how we wield our current arsenal [of interventions, like masks, vaccines, etc.]."

Previously: Mask Mandate Exceptions for Offices and Gyms Return Next Week In SF As Omicron Surge Dissipates