Cody said the county is continuing to monitor the disease and working with health care providers and the public to prepare for other emerging variants.
How the county will track the virus and understand new surges and variants is changing. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has shifted its focus on the outcome of the virus, such as hospitalization rates rather than the amount of transmission, she said. The data from this model lags, however, and makes identifying warning signs of surges slower, she said.
As more people have shifted to doing at-home testing for COVID-19, the county needs to rely on other systems to understand transmissibility, she said. County health officials continue to surveille wastewater for DNA from the virus and its variants. The wastewater surveillance program, which began in fall 2020, has been a reliable source of information about where outbreaks are occurring and how the spread is trending, she said.
The county will also close by March 15 one of two leased hotels that have been used to isolate unhoused people with COVID-19 cases to one and begin to prioritize the placement in the remaining hotel of unhoused people coming from congregate-care settings and hospitals. A program will be put in place to help people transition to other supportive services.
The county also is ending its at-home and financial assistance program referrals, no longer taking in new clients. It expects to process all pending requests by April 30.
Supervisor Mike Wasserman asked staff to develop a "playbook" for handling COVID-19 based on lessons learned during the past two years of the pandemic that relate to infrastructure, testing and vaccinations.
"Another virus may come to town and be the next COVID," he said.
County administrators plan to bring a summary before the board at a future date.
Cody on Tuesday put the omicron surge in perspective for the Board of Supervisors.
"We saw more cases — many more cases — during the omicron surge than at any previous surge, and this was the case even in our very highly vaccinated population. This was in large part due to the incredible transmissibility of omicron," she said.
She noted that the county saw a rise in the number of deaths from the omicron variant outbreak. At the peak in late January, 46 residents died in a week compared to 26 during the delta surge, according to county dashboard data.
The sheer numbers of cases on a community level caused by omicron were such that even a small proportion of serious illnesses resulted in a higher number of deaths, she said.
"On a community level, omicron was much, much worse than delta," she said.
Health administrators in San Mateo County plan to close the drive-thru COVID-19 testing site at the San Mateo County Event Center after March 15, they told the county Board of Supervisors on Tuesday.
The center isn't considered essential at this point, since virus case rates have declined by 96% since the peak of the latest surge on Jan. 8. Of all county residents, 83% are now fully vaccinated.
The county will continue to sponsor vaccine clinics in East Palo Alto, Redwood City and San Mateo, among other cities, said Dr. Anand Chabra, San Mateo County Health's COVID-19 mass vaccination section chief.
The county also is pulling back on contact tracing and will focus on high-risk populations such as residents of congregate-care facilities, shelters and jails.
San Mateo County Health Chief Louise Rogers noted that hospitalizations are on a downward trend, and there are only two residents in "safe isolation" in motels or other locations that are sheltering homeless people who test positive for the virus.
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