Bay Area COVID case rates lower than California again

After four months of having to claim the highest COVID rates in California, the Bay Area has returned to its familiar position for most of the pandemic — among the lowest infection rates in the state.

Earlier this month, Los Angeles and San Diego both overtook the nine-county Bay Area as the highly contagious BA.5 variant spread across the state. The change comes as LA considers reinstating an indoor mask mandate, which some Southern California campuses such as UC Irvine have already done.

The Bay Area’s unusual turn atop California’s case rates defied the pattern seen in almost days in 2020 and 2021, with the region benefiting from aggressive shutdowns and social distancing. But the omicron waves and the lifting of almost all mandates changed things.

From late February to early July, the Bay Area was reporting a higher case rate than the state, sometimes more than 50% higher. At one point, the region’s rate was among the highest in the country.

Now, Bay Area case rates appear to be declining slightly, from more than 50 cases per 100,000 population in early June to quarantine in July. Case rates in Los Angeles have now topped 55 per 100,000. Hospitalized COVID patients have also soared in Southern California, while the rise in hospitalizations in the Bay Area is slowing.

So what’s happening now that causes the Bay Area to fall below California’s case rate again?

“Any reason I give will be guesswork,” said Dr. John Swartzberg, clinical professor emeritus of infectious diseases and vaccinology at UC Berkeley’s School of Public Health. “When I look over time at this pandemic, we’ve seen that epidemics never happen uniformly,” he said, “they happen stochastically,” an epidemiologist way of saying they happen randomly.

Swartzberg said what’s happening now is “the same phenomenon” we’ve been seeing for years now. “A region has a problem, and it stays a problem for about three months, and then it starts to get better.”

But what really matters these days, experts say, are dramatically better outcomes for people who test positive for COVID, thanks to vaccines and antiviral therapies and newer variants that cause less severe disease.

There was no better indication of this than Thursday’s news that President Biden had tested positive.

“My immediate response was that I didn’t feel worried,” Swartzberg said, when his wife broke the news to him. “It’s a remarkable change in my feelings from nine months ago,” he said, “with delta, if someone gets COVID, someone 79, I worry let him die.

“I think the odds of someone like Biden dying now are not zero, but they’re approaching zero.”

When President Trump tested positive more than 20 months ago, the country clung to every update in a pre-vaccine world in which doctors relied on experimental therapies to target a deadlier variant. of the virus.

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