SAN FRANCISCO (KRON) — The omicron variant COVID-19 surge is finally declining in San Francisco, according to the city’s top health official. It’s also taught the city leaders to change their goals with how to handle COVID.

The surge caused a record-high for San Francisco in COVID-19 cases – more cases than the city has reported at one time throughout the entire two-year pandemic.

“Data shows that cases peaked on Jan. 9 with a 7-day average of 2,164 cases per day and have steadily dropped each day since then to 1,076 cases per day on Jan. 12,” according to the San Francisco Department of Public Health.

Hospitalizations are expected to peak this week, with no concerns about maxing out the local hospital capacity, the department adds.

Cases are still “extremely high” however. The department recommends San Francisco residents stay cautious with their activities through the next several weeks and to wear the proper face masks.

“We have seen COVID evolve over the past two years, and as a city, we have evolved with it,” said Mayor London Breed. “We know that this virus will be with us for the foreseeable future, but we have the tools in place and the experience managing COVID to not let it completely upend our lives.”

Despite the record case numbers, most people in San Francisco reported mild or asymptomatic infections with the latest surge.

“Omicron has changed the game – it is extremely contagious and it’s also less severe and often mild for those who are vaccinated and boosted. Our goal is no longer to prevent every case of COVID,” said Dr. Director of Health, Dr. Grant Colfax.  “Instead, our goal is to prevent the worst outcomes of the disease, such as hospitalizations and deaths, and to do this while keeping essential services open, like schools and hospitals. We do that by doubling down on what we know works – getting vaccinated and boosted. And during times of high transmission, we have to be extra vigilant and layer our defenses so that we can prevent spread to those who are most vulnerable and to our frontline workers who need to support core City services.”   

The city reports 82% of its population is vaccinated, and 61% of the eligible population has received an additional booster shot.

Across the Bay Area, most counties are starting to see the number of reported cases decrease, but hospitalizations are still increasing.

“Like most Bay Area counties, we’re now seeing that our case counts are declining. We’re really more confident that that’s a reliable trend,” Dr. Matt Willis, the Public Health Officer in Marin County, said.

In Santa Clara County, they use wastewater surveillance as a way to supplement their public health data. It measures the amount of virus in the wastewater, accounting for those who are asymptomatic, don’t test, or use an at-home test.

Deputy Director for the Health Department Michael Balliet says they are seeing a similar trend. 

“Some leveling off or maybe even some slight declines in the concentrations of virus in the wastewater,” Balliet said. “We’re cautiously optimistic that our clinical cases will start to show the same kind of reduction.”

But Dr. Willis says it’s not time to let your guard down yet.

“I think the other concern is that our hospitalizations are not dropping right now. In fact, they’re continuing to increase,” Dr. Willis said. 

At John Muir Health in Contra Costa County, Chief Medical Officer Dr. Russell Rodriguez echoed his concern.

“Impatient numbers are approaching our highest on record for our health system,” Dr. Rodriguez said. 

He says hospitalization lags behind case positivity, often hitting its peak a week or two after the case peak. Both doctors are hopeful hospitalizations will start to go down soon.

Dr. Rodriguez says hospitals are still busy and asks people not to go to the emergency department for a COVID test or very mild and manageable symptoms.