It was COVID-19 whiplash week for Bay Area residents.
First, we learn that three Gulf counties – San Francisco, Alameda and Contra Costa – will not follow new government camouflage rules, instead allowing vaccinated people to walk without camouflage in workplaces and gyms.
Santa Clara County Healthcare Officer Dr. Sarah Cody then warned of an impending “flood” of omicron cases. “I see perhaps one of the toughest moments in the pandemic,” she said. “… I want to inform you that when I look around the corner, I see a lot of COVID and a lot of omicron.”
The gap between these two reactions is staggering. While the leaders of the three counties seem to deny this, Cody has demonstrated once again that she is not afraid to speak the truth about what lies ahead. Cody was a distinguished Bay Area medical executive, one who was ready to be the first to prove herself. And, again, she’s right.
At the outbreak of the pandemic, the rest of the Gulf Region health officers followed suit. They established consistent rules and spoke with a single voice. But as the ugly political pressures rose, some were more inclined to stay on course than others.
The result is a jumble of inconsistent mandates in the Bay Area that confuses residents and business owners and often cannot find a reliable centralized resource to explain the rules they should follow.
We are sympathetic to the struggle that healthcare professionals face – the science-defying resistance of some people to vaccines, masks and social distancing. Unfortunately, for some parts of our society, exclusive selfishness, covered by a claim to freedom, prevails over the common good. And we are all paying the price.
It’s time for the Bay Area health officers to step up again, unite and lead. To demonstrate the confidence needed to stay ahead of the COVID curve rather than waiting for a critical mass of cases before acting. To come together on one set of rules that they present with clarity and consistent messaging – and an easy-to-navigate regional website that residents can use when they have questions.
The refusal of San Francisco, Alameda and Contra Costa to abide by the new state regulations is a prime example of the chaos that broke out when Bay Area health workers split. For most of the pandemic, healthcare providers have outpaced the state in setting health standards that the administration of Governor Gavin Newsom must emulate.
But as we know all too well, when it comes to COVID regulations, Newsom is slow and timid. Even with his new camouflage mandate from December 15 to January 15, he allowed counties that previously had stricter camouflage requirements for public spaces to maintain, which did the counties of San Francisco, Alameda and Contra Costa.
The result is more fragmented rules, as if the coronavirus somehow respects political boundaries – in this case, district boundaries. That it would somehow behave differently, say, in Fremont in Alameda County than in neighboring Milpitas in Santa Clara County.
This is ridiculous. We need at least a regional approach. If we could depend on the state, that would be great. But Newsom has always been too slow to resist impending surges, and too fast to loosen the rules as they seem to be passing.
Cody is right: A new COVID surge in the Bay Area is imminent. We are already seeing an increase in the incidence. And the omicron will almost certainly gain a foothold in the Gulf region, as in other countries and in the world. The sooner we get ahead of it, the better.
This is why the reactions from the counties of Alameda, Contra Costa and San Francisco are so overwhelming. Early research suggests that omicron is much more infectious than the delta variant and is better able to penetrate the defense mechanisms of our vaccines, especially for people not receiving repeated injections. Vaccinations and disguises are necessary in indoor public spaces – and this option will not help us in the gym or in the workplace.
On Friday, Bay Area health professionals issued a joint statement calling on everyone who is eligible for booster vaccinations. While some evidence suggests that omicron infections may be less serious than those of its predecessors, they noted that if a surge causes many thousands of new cases every day, even a small percentage of that total going into our hospitals will overwhelm our delivery systems. medical care.
They are right. Getting boosters is a key line of defense. But much more will be needed to prevent another series of tragic deaths. This is why Bay Area healthcare professionals must find their core again.