SF schools report most cases since January


SF schools report most COVID cases since January

San Francisco public school students and staff reported 472 COVID-19 cases last week, up from 320 in the previous week. That figure matches numbers reported at schools in the first and last week of January during the winter omicron surge. It marks an eight-fold increase in cases at schools since the San Francisco Unified School District dropped its mask mandate in April — a reflection of the uptick in community spread across the city, which is one of the nation’s COVID-19 hotspots. San Francisco’s coronavirus positive test rate reached 11.7% on Thursday, nearly twice California’s overall rate of 6.6%. SFUSD has reported 7,421 cumulative cases in its 2022 spring semester, among about 62,800 students and staff members. The academic year ends June 1.

UCLA brings back indoor mask mandate, citing rising cases

Students, staff, and visitors at UCLA are required to wear masks indoors again starting Friday, due to a “consistent rise” in COVID-19 cases on campus and in Los Angeles County, officials announced on Thursday. The universal indoor mask mandate will remain in place until June 15, when it will be reevaluated, the school said. It also applies to indoor commencement ceremonies. Officials also strongly advised against providing food and/or drink service at indoor gatherings during the current surge. Weekly testing is also required for anyone who is regularly on campus, regardless of vaccination status. “It is important for us to respond to the current trends so that we can reduce the risk of infection without disruption to in-person learning and campus activities, including commencement celebrations,” Michael J. Beck, UCLA’s administrative vice chancellor, said in a statement.

California is a red state on CDC’s virus transmission map

Nearly every county in California has crossed the threshold for high community transmission of COVID-19, according to data published Thursday by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Only four of the state’s 58 counties were not labeled red, which designates the top transmission level, and those are in sparsely populated rural areas. About 61% of all US counties fall under the high community transmission category, a 7.3% increase from the previous seven-day period. California is averaging nearly 11,000 new cases a day, up from about 8,700 two weeks ago. New hospital admissions of patients with COVID-19 have been trending upwards since early April, now reaching the same levels they were at during the tail of the omicron winter surge.

Anticipating summer COVID surge, White House to make Paxlovid available at more sites

The White House on Thursday announced more steps to make the antiviral treatment Paxlovid more accessible across the US as it projects COVID-19 infections will continue to spread over the summer travel season, the Associated Press reports. Confirmed infections in the US have quadrupled since late March, from about 25,000 a day to more than 105,000 daily now. But deaths, which have tended to lag infections by three to four weeks over the course of the coronavirus pandemic, have declined steadily and are now plateaued at fewer than 300 per day. It’s the first time in the course of the pandemic that the two have not trended together, said White House COVID-19 coordinator Dr. Ashish Jha. He credited vaccines but also a more than four-fold increase in prescriptions over the last six weeks for the highly effective treatment Paxlovid. “What has been remarkable in the latest increase in infections we’re seeing is how steady serious illness and particularly deaths are eight weeks into this,” he said. “COVID is no longer the killer that it was even a year ago.”

BA.4 and BA.5 detected in Santa Clara County wastewater

On Thursday, public health officials in Santa Clara County confirmed to The Chronicle the presence of the BA.4 and BA.5 sub-lineages of the omicron coronavirus variant in the county’s wastewater samples. The strains were recently reclassified as “variants of concern” by the European Center for Disease Prevention and Control. While they currently make up less than 1% of the COVID-19 measured in the region’s watershed system, public health experts worry the highly transmissible variants may rapidly drive another wave of cases, as they are currently doing in South Africa and some European countries. “Preliminary studies suggest a significant change in antigenic properties of BA.4 and BA.5 compared to BA.1 and BA.2, especially compared to BA.1 (the original omicron variant),” the agency wrote in its bulletin. The variants show signs of evading immunity, meaning even those previously infected with omicron are susceptible to reinfection. “The currently observed growth advantage for BA.4 and BA.5 is likely due to their ability to evade immune protection induced by prior infection and/or vaccination, particularly if this has waned over time,” the agency said.

Emergency rooms saw fewer seizure patients early on in pandemic

Weekly seizure or epilepsy-related emergency department visits decreased sharply during the early pandemic period among all age groups, especially children 9 and younger, according to new data from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The figure for that age group declined by 44% year-over-year compared to the overall decrease of 16% and did not return to the pre-pandemic baseline until mid-2021, longer than other age groups, the agency said Thursday. The reason for the decrease is “unclear,” but the researchers have some theories. “In the present study, school closures and the need to shelter at home could have facilitated heightened supervision of children while at home, including increased monitoring and promotion of healthy behaviors reducing seizure risk (eg, medication adherence and regular sleep) or seizure sequelae ( eg, injury), thereby reducing the need for ED care,” they wrote. The decrease in hospital visits in the younger age group may also be related to “concern about risk for COVID-19 in EDs, deterring parents or guardians from seeking care for their children.”

Summer vacations in a COVID surge: Here’s how to manage the risks of traveling

With Memorial Day approaching and many people in the Bay Area ramping up plans for summer travel, COVID continues to pose a threat, with highly transmissible omicron variants driving the latest surge. Read what experts say you should factor that into your summer vacation picture.

Virus spread rising in all 58 California counties

Each of California’s 58 counties is seeing a growing “reproduction rate,” which means the spread of the virus is likely increasing statewide. The effective reproduction number, representing the average number of people to whom each infected person spreads the coronavirus, is above 1 in every county, according to state data. In the Bay Area, the estimated figure is highest in Solano County (1.79); Contra Costa and Santa Clara counties (1.60); and Alameda, San Mateo and Sonoma (1.52) counties. Nearly all counties fell below 0.05 following the winter omicron surge. Statewide, the highest rate is in Stanislaus County at 2.62, indicating that each infected person is spreading the virus to nearly three others; and lowest is in Humboldt County at 1.16, which is still above the baseline for no spread.

UCSF doc says “supercharged” variants, eased restrictions driving surge

With the number of coronavirus cases in the Bay Area surpassing the peaks of last year’s winter surge, many are wondering how the region that fared so well for most of the pandemic is now California’s COVID hot spot. Dr. Peter Chin-Hong, an infectious disease expert at UCSF, said during the school’s most recent town hall discussion there are a variety of factors at play. “Much of this is driven by less previous exposure to natural infection,” he said. “But there’s also supercharged transmissible variants now, at the time when people are going out like everyone else.” He said the BA.2 subvariant is 30% to 50% more transmissible than its parent omicron coronavirus variant and its BA.2.12.1 sublineage is another 25% more transmissible. “Restrictions have been dropped in all areas,” he said. “And there’s the risk of everyone who’s visiting as well.”

Vaccination does not prevent long COVID, new research finds

Currently available COVID vaccines may prevent hospitalization and death but only slightly decreased the risk for long COVID, according to a study published Wednesday in the journal Nature Medicine. Using data from the US Department of Veterans Affairs, which included medical records of nearly 34,000 vaccinated people and more than 113,000 who were unvaccinated during the delta phase of the virus, the researchers from Washington University in St. Louis found that the shots made little difference in reducing persistent symptoms between the two groups. “Altogether, the findings suggest that vaccination before infection confers only partial protection in the post-acute phase of the disease; hence, reliance on it as a sole mitigation strategy may not optimally reduce long-term health consequences of SARS-CoV-2 infection,” the researchers wrote. Future vaccine formulations may be able to better address long COVID.

Fourth dose of Pfizer vaccine wanes faster than third, study confirms

A fourth dose of Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine provides additional protection against coronavirus infection and severe COVID-19 outcomes compared with three vaccine doses, but its effectiveness wanes faster, according to a study published Tuesday in the journal BMJ. The 10-week study, conducted in Israel during the omicron wave of the virus, compared outcomes of 69,623 adults with three doses of the Pfizer vaccine against 27,876 adults who received the fourth dose. It found that the additional dose offered 65.1% protection at the third week, but that level fell to 22% by the end of the research period. The authors suggest vaccine developers work on improving their formulas. “A stabilization effect of additional doses on immune memory should be further investigated, as well as studies on mucosal vaccines,” they wrote.

Brain fog, headaches could last more than a year after mild infection, study suggests

Lingering neurological symptoms following a COVID-19 infection — such as brain fog, numbness and headaches — can last for more than a year even as other conditions improve, according to a study published Tuesday in Annals of Clinical and Translational Neurology. the report, from researchers at Northwestern University, is one of the longest follow-up studies on COVID patients who initially had mild symptoms and did not require hospitalization. Almost 80% were vaccinated. Using 18 months of data, it found that the neurological symptoms on average lasted 15 months even as other conditions improved. “Long-COVID syndrome is causing a detrimental impact on quality of life and overall productivity which may only continue worsening as the pandemic evolves,” the researchers wrote.

CDC warns of rebound infections after Paxlovid treatment

Some patients who take the antiviral Paxlovid can see symptoms of COVID-19 return following a brief period of recovery, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said in an advisory on Tuesday. Reports of rebound infections have become increasingly common but the federal health agency still recommends the drug for early-stage treatment of mild to moderate COVID-19 among persons at high risk for progression to severe disease. “Limited information currently available from case reports suggests that persons treated with Paxlovid who experience COVID-19 rebound have had mild illness; there are no reports of severe disease,” the advisory said. “There is currently no evidence that additional treatment is needed with Paxlovid or other anti-SARS-CoV-2 therapies in cases where COVID-19 rebound is suspected.”



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