San Mateo County's COVID-19 cases are on the rise, mirroring the statewide and national trend, but health officials say the county is prepared.
For the week ending Nov. 10, San Mateo County had an adjusted rate of 5.7 cases per day per 100,000, more than double the previous week's rate of 2.2 cases per 100,000. The county's test positivity rate rose from 1.3% to 2.1%, compared to the state's 5.2%. County data shows there have been 12,684 total COVID-19 cases so far, including 127 new cases on Monday.
As a result, San Mateo County moved back to the red tier of the state's Blueprint for a Safer Economy, joining other Bay Area counties that moved to more restrictive tiers on Nov. 16.
Moving to the red means decreased capacity for indoor dining and places of worship. Bars that don't serve meals must now close completely after being allowed to open outdoors in the orange tier, which the county was in last week.
During a presentation Tuesday to the county Board of Supervisors, Chief of San Mateo County Health Louise Rogers said it's a difficult time for everyone as the weather gets colder and patience wears down.
"We really have to strengthen our resolve to adapt," Rogers said. "As the holidays approach, everyone longs to be with their loved ones. But this year we want to show our love by keeping each other safe and keeping our collective eyes on the horizon with the encouraging news of the vaccine coming."
Rogers said the county is "much better prepared this time around than with the earlier surges" due to its sufficient hospital capacity, increased testing capacity, a robust team of contact tracers, and a program to support people who need to isolate following infection.
The county is also working with a company, contracted by the state that provides contact tracers on weekends and after hours. "We really want the public to know that they can count on us," Rogers said.
Rogers encouraged people to take advantage of testing, available at the San Mateo County Event Center and at rotating sites throughout the county.
In order to reduce the spread of the virus, she encouraged people to limit gatherings and take individual action such as wearing a face covering, social distancing and washing hands.
"The things that we can all do individually and within our households to prevent the spread are the things that have the potential to have the greatest impact," Rogers said.
Rogers said the county is working with the state -- and the state is working with the federal government and the CDC -- in anticipation of a vaccine.
Early findings show a vaccine developed by biopharmaceutical company Pfizer was more than 90 percent effective at preventing COVID-19, while one developed by Moderna, a biotech company, was found to be 94.5% effective.
However, once approved, the vaccine will take time to reach everyone. Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation's leading infectious diseases expert, estimated that vaccinations could begin at the end of December for health workers and at-risk populations, and around April 2021 for the general population.
On a county level, Rogers said vaccine distribution would involve mobilizing pharmacies, investigating freezer capacity, working with private health care providers and creating infrastructure for mass vaccinations.
Regarding which populations will be prioritized for vaccination, Rogers said that from her understanding, medically high-risk and older adults will be some of the earliest populations to receive the vaccine.
County Supervisor David Canepa asked that Rogers and other health officials prioritize essential workers for vaccination.
"We should be looking at where the virus is flourishing, which is among essential workers," Canepa said. "They should be first in line to get a vaccine. We owe them that."
For COVID-19 testing sites in San Mateo County, visit smcgov.org/testing.
For more information on what businesses or activities may open in San Mateo County, visit covid19.ca.gov/safer-economy and type in "San Mateo County."
For guidelines on travel and gatherings during the holidays, visit cmo.smcgov.org.