Jan 24, 2023 - COVID

San Francisco has reached "benign" state of COVID

Illustration of a covid particle reflected in a rearview mirror

Illustration: Natalie Peeples/Axios

Cases of COVID-19 are on the decline in San Francisco, but as the country enters its fourth year of living with the virus, a local health expert says people shouldn't get complacent.

  • Bob Wachter, chair of medicine at the University of California, San Francisco, told Axios that federal discussions on annual COVID-19 vaccinations could help with increasing vaccination rates here and elsewhere.

Driving the news: The Food and Drug Administration released a briefing document this week ahead of a Thursday meeting to discuss the state of the pandemic, as well as whether COVID vaccines need to be modified again.

  • The FDA, in the document, noted vaccines may be needed yearly as the virus continues to evolve. For higher-risk people, the FDA may suggest a twice-yearly shot.

Why it matters: Wachter says an annual booster is a "reasonable strategy given there are some people who have just stopped getting shots because they're confused."

By the numbers: San Francisco has a seven-day rolling average of 74 new COVID-19 cases per day, as of Jan. 15, according to the city's health department.

  • On Dec. 15, 2022, the seven-day rolling average was 190 cases per day.

What they're saying: "The current state of COVID in San Francisco is pretty benign," Wachter said, adding the virus is at as "low a threat as we've seen maybe in the last year."

  • Wachter said that case rates are at a level at which he's resumed indoor dining, which he previously had avoided.

Meanwhile, adoption of the bivalent vaccine is low in San Francisco but still higher than it is nationwide.

  • 36% of those eligible for the bivalent vaccine have received the booster in San Francisco, according to the city's health department.
  • Statewide, 23.5% of eligible Californians have received one, compared to 19.6% nationwide.

Of note: San Francisco announced last week it would permanently close the COVID-19 testing site at Alemany Boulevard at the end of the month amid declining demand, the SF Standard reports.

Be smart: Wachter said people should continue to assess risk and "not be unduly influenced by the fact that we're all sick and tired of this and would love to put this in the rearview mirror."

What's next: After the panel meeting on Thursday, the FDA will consider whether to change existing vaccine authorizations and the process to select strains to target, Axios' Adriel Bettelheim reports.


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