COVID-19 cases are down in SF, but doctors fear new variant could cause surge any day

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- Coronavirus cases are going down in San Francisco, but doctors are not letting their guard down. There is concern as new variants of COVID-19 have been spotted across the globe, causing a deadly spread.

"Our numbers are down overall in the hospital," said Dr. Colwell, Chief of Emergency Medicine at ZSFG.

RELATED: Stanford researchers launch large-scale surveillance for COVID-19 variants

Mayor London Breed tweeted, "San Francisco's COVID-19 reproductive rate is back under 1, at 0.99! That means for every person who gets COVID-19, on average they're passing it to less than one other person. We're slowing the spread. If this continues, we could soon start reopening under CA's guidelines."

At Zuckerberg San Francisco General, there are 48 coronavirus patients in the hospital. That number is down from 78 patients just four days ago.

Dr. Colwell is seeing this firsthand as COVID-19 cases drop, "Our ICU's are full with other things, but our COVID patients are now below 10. The ICU capacity in the city is approaching 15%, that is better than it has been in a while. We're also starting to vaccinate our patients that are over 65," Dr. Colwell said.

VIDEO: SF doctor explains why COVID-19 variant detected in SoCal could be spreading faster
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After the new strain of coronavirus was detected in San Diego, doctors are explaining why it could be spreading "significantly faster."

As medical doctors begin to catch their breath, there's a new concern looming.

"We've seen a lot of variants of the COVID-19 virus. Some of them look like they are more transmissible than the original form," said Dr. Colwell.

Dr. Benjamin Pinsky, Director of the Stanford Clinical Virology Laboratory is tracking the data, "The UK variant, I believe is in over 60 countries now, the South African variant is in over 20 countries despite limitations on travel," said Pinsky.

RELATED: Health officials identify COVID-19 variant linked to several large outbreaks in Santa Clara Co.

Dr. Catherine Blish, Professor of Medicine and Infectious Diseases at Stanford University is part of a group of Infectious disease researchers who are studying the virus as it mutates.

"In the entire California region we're having an emergency call tomorrow to plan our strategy to study these variants. We're actively monitoring and coming up with a good strategy," said Dr. Blish.

According to Dr. Blish the variants can be 30-70% more contagious than COVID-19 and the best way to prevent a spread is to vaccinate as many people as possible.

"The concern is that these variants are likely already circulating in our community, but because we don't have the sequence resources we don't know their level. What has happened in the UK and in South Africa where this is happening, is that these variants are associated with a dramatic surge," said Dr. Blish.

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