Covid-19 Updates in the Bay Area, as of December 10th 2020
Not surprisingly, the Bay Area has joined the national trend, with a significant third wave of Covid-19 cases. California’s new cases per day, over the last week, have averaged 610 per million of population, similar to the national average. Locally, case numbers are increasing, but still lower than the California’s average. Stanford had 51 Covid-19 cases in the hospital as of yesterday, which has now passed the peaks seen in March and July. This compares to 27 cases the week before.
There is still plenty of capacity in our local hospitals to handle the need. Stanford reports that they have not needed to defer any elective procedures, and they have a robust surge system in place in case it were needed. This week, Santa Clara County, along with several other Bay Area counties returned to stricter stay at home orders. Hopefully, we will see the case numbers decline soon, with a renewed focus on the prevention of viral spread.
Vaccines for Covid-19
With respect to vaccines, it’s remarkable how far we’ve come in just over a month. Five weeks ago, we did not know whether or not we would ever have an effective vaccine against Covid-19. On November 9th, Pfizer announced that its vaccine was highly effective, followed by Moderna a week later. Both companies are on track for likely FDA approval in the coming week.
Vaccine distribution is being closely regulated, and vaccines will likely go first to nursing home residents, and high risk healthcare workers. Planning is already in place for distribution to hospitals and residential care facilities. We do not know yet when vaccine supplies will be available outside of the hospital settings, but we are working with our county health department, and vaccine distributors to make sure that we get the fastest delivery that we can. While we’re hoping for something sooner, we are told that we should let people know that it may be 3-6 months before vaccines are widely available.
Flu Season update
Some good news regarding the Flu season. In the Southern Hemisphere, where the influenza season typically peaks between May and October, we have seen virtually no flu activity.
Here in the United States, we’ve had a total of 513 influenza cases reported to public and clinical laboratories since flu season tracking started in September. By comparison, by this week last year, we had already had 14,072 positive flu cases nationally. I think it’s likely that we will see a fairly weak flu season this year. This will help to maintain hospital capacity, and limit the strain on national resources.
Covid-19 transmission among children
Lastly, I’d like to look at schools and Covid-19. UCSF reviewed this topic in a recent grand rounds on December 3rd. Emily Oster, a professor of economics at Brown University, was featured, and reviewed data comparing cases in the community to cases in schools. Thankfully, data from elementary and middle schools show that in person schooling does not appear to increase the risk of Covid-19 transmission for students and staff. She showed that case rates in schools simply mirror what’s happening in the community, and that in school transmission appears to be minimal (for elementary and middle school children.) It should be noted, however, that this data is based on children going to school with current precautions (masks and distancing), and not a suggestion that we should return to school as before.
While the data from younger children is very reassuring, it is less clear for older children and young adults.
Outbreaks at Universities, however, have been well documented, and it’s felt that transmission in older children, such as high schoolers, may be significant as well. Research is ongoing as to why children appear to be much more resistant to Covid-19 infection, compared to adults. It seems probable that the factors that make children less likely to have a severe case, also make them less likely to spread the illness.
We hope that this letter finds you all well, and that you are able to enjoy the end of the year with your family and friends, either virtually, or safely in person. We are thankful that we are all doing well here, and are hopeful that with the new vaccines, will be able to write more positive letters in the months to come!
Wishing you a joyful holiday season!
Dr. Ian Kroes and Dr. David Hiroshima
Peninsula Doctor is premier Concierge Medical Practice located in Silicon Valley city of Menlo Park