Bay Area COVID-19 positivity rate hits 15 percent, CDC recommends masking in public

COVID-19 cases are continuing to surge across the Bay Area, driven largely driven by subvariants of Omicron. All nine Bay Area counties are now considered ‘high risk' for the community spread of COVID-19 by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Despite the high percentage of tests coming back positive, health experts say the vaccine is continuing to prevent severe disease, and that following basic safety protocols can help further protect you.

"Not everybody is going to get COVID." said Dr. Peter Chin-Hong, an infectious disease expert with UCSF Health. "It’s just a matter again of using tools in the community, sensibly to try and reduce risk." 

The CDC is recommending masking up in public places across the Bay Area's nine counties. The California Department of Public Health is also reminding parents to get their kids the vaccine, now authorized for children under five.

"These vaccines are safe, they’re effective. We have never accumulated so much data, so quickly on vaccines. Over 20 million children of older ages have gotten vaccines," said Dr. Erica Pan, State Epidemiologist of the California Department of Public Health.

Pan says the vaccine continues to prevent severe COVID-19 in a majority of people who get it, so despite the uptick in cases, hospitalizations remain fairly low.

"Our hospital rates are going up a bit as well, but nowhere near prior surges," said Dr. Pan.

In Santa Clara County, its cases, like much of the country, are tied to newer subvariants of Omicron.

"What we’re seeing in a lot of the waste water data, which is what we're currently relying on in addition to our case data, is that we’re continuing to see these variants have a high level of transmission in the community," said Michael Balliet, deputy director of public health for Santa Clara County.

"Their superpower is reinfection. So even if you got infected two weeks ago, in the old days that would probably give you three weeks off, it’s not so with BA.4 and BA.5," said Dr. Chin-Hong.  

While Dr. Chin-Hong says masking is important, he says it hasn't gotten to a point in the Bay Area yet where he feels mask mandates will come back.