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U.S. ‘turning a corner’ in COVID surge, UCSF doctor says

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SAN FRANCISCO, Calif. (KRON) — A UCSF doctor shared an update on the local and statewide response to the coronavirus pandemic.

Dr. Bob Wachter expressed his concerns, but also gave a glimmer of hope in a detailed 22-series Twitter thread shared on Friday.

Dr. Wachter is the chair of the UCSF Department of Medicine. He commented on what he says are the two biggest issues: the vaccine rollout and the variants.

He says things are still “pretty bad”, but says we’re “turning a corner” in the winter surge in the Bay Area and beyond.

Dr. Wachter said there has been a steep fall in rates in San Francisco.

The City is reporting 299 cases per day and 237 people in hospitals, both a decrease from previously reported numbers.

The test positivity rate in San Francisco has also decreased, now at 4.5%.

San Francisco has the lowest per capita death rate, 31 per 100K people, of any large city in the U.S, according to Dr. Wachter.

He also talked about the Bay Area as a whole and the state, saying both are also improving.

But it’s no secret that the surge in Los Angeles has been heartbreaking.

He says hospitalizations are finally starting to fall in Los Angeles, though.

Other hopeful news — Dr. Wachter says California now has the lowest rate in the country, which is expected to predict further falls in coronavirus cases, hospitalizations and deaths.

Dr. Wachter talked about a new coronavirus variant in California.

The new variant was found in the Bay Area and linked to several outbreaks in the South Bay.

Santa Clara County Health Director Dr. Sara Cody confirmed the L452R variant was found in the Kaiser San Jose outbreak that infected dozens of people and killed one.

Dr. Wachter says although the fall in rate in the golden state is reassuring, there needs to be more research to ensure the variant doesn’t spread more readily.

He said he’s seen reassuring evidence that the U.K. variant is “likely susceptible” to the vaccine. But the South African variant is less comforting, Dr. Wachter said.

Fortunately, he says, the South African variant has not yet been found in the U.S., but is still all the more reason to get vaccinated as soon as possible.

He says the U.S must do everything possible to keep the variant out of the country and to step up genetic testing to find it, and others like it.

Nationwide, the picture is also brighter with a fall in cases across the country. Dr. Wacther says this is likely due to the cold weather and the result of people being more careful with the activities they participate in.

Furthermore, the vaccine rollout is improving across the country.

He said 18.4 million shots in the U.S. have been administered so far, averaging about 940,000 per day.

But California continues to struggle with distributing the vaccine, with only 37% of its vaccine supply administered.

UCSF has vaccinated about 22,000 people after offering vaccinations to patients 75 years of age and older.

There will be a mass vaccination site at City College of San Francisco this weekend.

Dr. Wachter says the U.S. must focus on the end-goal: herd immunity.

Which according to Dr. Paul Offit means roughly 60% of Americans vaccinated.

In summary, Dr. Wachter says the surge is improving but still awful, the vaccine distribution is improving but still too slow and the variants are potentially scary but still “a bit over the horizon”.

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