Oct 13, 2022 - News

"Modest surge" of COVID-19 expected this winter, UCSF expert says

Covid-19 testing facility

COVID-19 testing site at Cesar Chavez Elementary School in San Francisco. Photo: Jessica Christian/The San Francisco Chronicle via Getty Images

Rates of COVID-19 in San Francisco have been low recently, and while the emergence of new variants could bring an uptick in cases this winter, local experts don't expect a massive spike.

Flashback: Last winter, the city, like the rest of the country, was rocked by the BA.5 Omicron variant, causing cases and hospitalizations to skyrocket in December and January.

  • "There was nobody who predicted Omicron a month before Omicron," UCSF's chair of medicine Robert Wachter, and a prolific tweeter on the matter, told Axios this week.

State of play: Wachter said there are now a "bunch of new variant candidates," several of which are "somewhat more immune evasive than BA.5."

  • Still, he said, "none of them are super scary [because] all of them come from the BA.5 lineage."
  • So, while Wachter doesn't rule out the possibility of a "curveball" that "creates a massive surge," he said there's "no good reason to believe that something is going to happen like what happened [last] December."

What he's saying: What's more likely this winter is a "modest surge," Wachter said, resulting from people's "waning immunity meet[ing] a potentially slightly more resistant virus."

  • "A ton of people get[ting] new boosters" will help win the "battle," he said.

By the numbers: The San Francisco Department of Public Health told Axios that as of Oct. 10, an estimated 101,000 San Franciscans have received a COVID-19 bivalent booster, aimed at the Omicron variant.

  • And while, the CDC cleared the new booster for kids as young as 5 years old on Wednesday, the SFDPH said it's waiting on "written recommendations and guidance" from federal and state groups to start administering the shots to children.

💭 Nick's thought bubble: I honestly forgot which number booster I was on and didn't know if I should get another shot since I had COVID a few months back.

  • But the CDC has a handy tool to let people know if they should get a booster — and it turns out, I should!

What's next: SFDPH wants residents to be up-to-date on their COVID-19 vaccinations ahead of the fall and winter holidays.

  • Meanwhile, the department is encouraging everyone over 6 months old to get their annual flu shot, saying they anticipate more cases this year "as people begin to gather and resume more pre-pandemic activities."
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