SAN FRANCISCO. For two years, San Francisco residents have been the children of the pandemic posters. When Covid-19 broke out, the city was one of the first in the country to declare a state of emergency.
Masks are required from April 2020. Vaccination rates are among the highest in the world. When the booming In-N-Out Burger restaurant on Fisherman’s Wharf refused to ask customers for proof of vaccinations, the city closed its indoor restaurant. In-N-Out (Side), City Health Department. scolded via tweet…
Never mind: On Wednesday, when health authorities confirmed that the Omicron variant of the coronavirus had arrived in the United States, the first known case was reported in San Francisco. The infected person, who officials said was self-isolating and engaged in aggressive contact tracing, noticed symptoms after returning from South Africa, where the variant was first identified.
Now the city that has led the country to wary of the coronavirus is preparing to stop. Again. Maybe harder.
“We thought we might go again in the spring,” sighed Linda Wallman, 67, a retired woman who hasn’t seen her European relatives since the pandemic began and who avoids crowds, restaurants and anyone unvaccinated except her 15-year-old. one month old grandson.
“Now I think we’ll just go to the bottom. Or lie down below. If at all possible.
Health officials braced themselves for pandemic fatigue across the country this week as word spread that a new variant had reached California and that cases were imminent elsewhere.
By Thursday morning, a second case was reported in Minnesota of a resident who recently attended an anime show in New York City, indicating that the variation had already begun to spread.
Omicron carries over 50 genetic mutations that could theoretically make it more infectious and less vulnerable to the body’s immune defenses than previous variants. Available vaccines may still provide significant protection against severe illness and death following exposure to this option, but much remains unknown.
Most of the mutations are related to the virus spike protein that current vaccines target. Federal officials are asking vaccinated people to get booster vaccines, and manufacturers of the two most effective vaccines, Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna, are preparing to reformulate their vaccines as needed.
But it remains unclear whether Omicron will change the rules of the fight against coronavirus. Officials said that if the new variant turns out to be more widespread than, say, the Delta variant, health guidelines could be tightened – more vigilance on indoor camouflage, stricter requirements for accelerators.
“It’s worth asking the question again:“ I started to get a little less careful than I was – is that correct? “Said Dr. Bob Wachter, professor and chair of the department of medicine at the University of California, San Francisco. “If psychologically it takes you a month to prepare for a retreat, you must prepare for that opportunity.”
This can be tricky. The options that government officials have to control the spread of the virus have proven politically limited in this country, even if communities were open to restrictions. For example, California’s health care measures have saved countless lives, but also helped support efforts this year to recall Gavin Newsom.
In rural northern Oroville, a Butte County town recently declared itself a “constitutional republic,” in most cases a symbolic move to protest the demands for a pandemic. Only 49 percent of the county’s residents are fully vaccinated, more than double the rate per 100,000 people in San Francisco.
“Every step that leads to a new or stricter rule is followed by a backlash,” said Dr. Wachter.
Following the identification of the Omicron variant in the United States, President Biden extended the mask requirement for buses, trains and airplanes to mid-March and offered insurance reimbursement for coronavirus tests at home, as well as better access to those tests for people without insurance. Dr. Anthony S. Fauci, the president’s chief medical adviser, has urged Americans to take advantage of vaccines.
“We have 60 million people in this country who are not vaccinated and are eligible to be vaccinated,” said Dr. Fauci. “Let’s get them vaccinated. Let’s vaccinate people, vaccinate them. Let’s get the kids vaccinated. “
In California, that was also a message. At a press conference in the Central Valley, where the virus raged amid persistent vaccine resistance, Newsom said he did not expect the resumption of in-situ asylum arrangements or the closure of classrooms, although the state planned to increase coronavirus testing at airports among travelers from countries. defined by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Much still depends on the actions of individual Californians, he said: whether they heed his repeated urgent calls for vaccinations or revaccinations, for example, and whether they are taking other precautions, such as adhering to mask regulations.
“It is important for people to understand that we have freedom of action,” said the governor. “People are thriving with these vaccines.”
In San Francisco, when rumors of the Omicron variant spread among its residents, many were less “prosperous” than resigned to the measures that had become the literal way of life in the city. Before this option came along, the city was heavily publicly criticized by the mayor, who was captured on Instagram on a dance floor in an indoor area without a mask.
Edlyn Clofkorn, who has an 85-year-old mother at home on dialysis and a fifth-grader who had just received her second dose of vaccine on Sunday, wondered if her family’s life would ever return to normal.
“If they don’t start vaccinating other countries,” she said as she picked up her son from St. Cecilia’s school in the West Portal area of the city, “this will never end.”
At the Ferry Building, food hall and market square on the San Francisco Bay Area, outdoor patio visitors worried about new economic turmoil.
“I hope we maintain the flexibility we have and the business continues to open up,” said Evelyn Arevalo, a business analyst at a biotech company that took to the streets to relax with a paint job and a bowl of zucchini nutmeg soup.
Allen Cooper, 53, who flew to San Francisco from Denver last week to meet with colleagues from the Bay Area, wondered what that would mean for his January 18 return date. “Hopefully there is no other reality that we will have to adjust again,” said Mr. Cooper.
Dale Parker, 62, said while lighting a Christmas tree at the Civic Center Plaza, where municipal workers in a VIP tent required vaccinations and masks were encouraged in a crowd of several hundred onlookers.
He said that he was now accustomed to the complex risk-taking that he did before deciding to go to the holiday meeting – the number of people, the distance between them, the rate of illness in the city, the fact that he was vaccinated himself – but he was tired of the restrictions. , which San Francisco obeys, including from city bans on the use of masks in public places.
“I think people should have a choice,” he said.
Alice Bath, 28, stood on the outskirts of the crowd wearing a red Santa hat in an attempt to cheer up the celebration with minimal risk. She said that she was worried about the Omicron variant, but also “tried to escape” from thinking about it.
Dr. Wachter, a compatriot from San Francisco, has supported many of his neighbors, noting that, at least for the next few weeks, the Delta variant is far more likely to infect him than the Omicron variant. He said he plans to maintain the current level of precautions.
“If you decide to go to an indoor restaurant,” he said, “your risk is no different from last week.”