Delta surge is 'clearly plateauing' in the Bay Area, UCSF doctors say

State data shows California's COVID-19 case rates are trending down, especially in the Bay Area.
SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- Two of the state's top doctors predict the Bay Area will be the first major metropolitan area to peak from our fast-growing Delta surge.

"So the light is at the end of the proverbial tunnel," said UCSF's Dr. Peter Chin-Hong, an infectious disease physician. "We've already had some silver linings."

California's silver lining

State data shows California's COVID-19 case rates are trending down, especially in the Bay Area.

"The Bay Area is sort of leading the way in terms of an early peak and starting to come down," said UCSF's Dept. of Medicine Chair, Dr. Bob Wachter. "I think we've clearly plateaued."

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Wachter says the Delta surge over the past two months in San Francisco went from 10 cases per day up to 280 cases per day in June and now that's dropped to 220 cases per day. Similar trend with hospitalizations -- he added UCSF went from one hospitalized COVID patient in the beginning of June to 40 to 45 at the peak and that's dropped to 30 hospitalized patients as of Tuesday.

ABC7's data analysis found that trend across the Bay Area and California.

"It's still increasing but the rate of increase is getting smaller," said Dr. Chin-Hong. "Two weeks ago there was a 22 percent increase in new COVID cases, but this past week it was down to a 7 percent increase."

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Chin-Hong says the decline is our reward from indoor masking and people modifying their behavior.

"I think in two weeks we will start to actually be beyond the crest and start come down in cases," he said. "Hospitalizations will decline early to middle of September, since they lag."

COVID-19 booster shots

The FDA authorized COVID-19 booster shots for immunocompromised patients, but the agency is expected to announce this week anyone who received their vaccine more than eight months ago will be eligible for a booster shot, regardless of age. Dr. Wachter expects the announcement will happen within a few days but stressed the rollout won't be immediate.

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"It will probably start in mid-September. It won't immediately be for everyone," said Wachter. "I think it's going to be a little bit of de ja vu with groups first, second, and third. But, this one will be a little bit of a different flavor because it will be what group you're in and when you got your vaccine."

Dr. Wachter says group one will likely be prioritized by healthcare workers and nursing home patients and staff.

"From there I'm guessing it will probably mirror what we saw in February, people who got the vaccine eight months ago or more who are over 60," Wachter said. "Where the J&J people stand I think is an open question."

Stephanie Sierra: "Can we expect the same side effects with the booster shot?"

Bob Wachter: "There's a fair amount of experience with it now from Israel and it appears the side effects profile is pretty similar to that of the first two doses. My guess is they'll be about the same or maybe a little bit better."

Wachter expects the COVID-19 booster distribution cycle will go much smoother than the initial rollout. He says if you're not in a priority group, say a healthy person under 60, boosters will likely be available by the fall or winter.

You can watch the full interview with Dr. Wachter below.

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UCSF's Dr. Bob Wachter gave us a 12-minute interview in which he explains how the rollout for COVID booster shots will likely happen.

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