SAN FRANCISCO (KPIX 5) — The spread of COVID in California is likely to increase this week as people travel and gather for holidays like Christmas and New Year’s Eve, the state’s Health and Human Services secretary said Tuesday.
Traffic at Bay Area airports is down compared to this time last year — at SFO, it is down 80% — but millions are still going through airports across the country each day.
The Transportation Security Agency said figures show it screened 1.28 million people Sunday on Christmas weekend. That’s the highest number of travelers since the onset of the pandemic.
California officials are hoping people avoid non-essential travel, even though there have been some promising signs.
The number of people seen traveling on the weekend after Christmas and as New Year’s Eve approaches has health officials again making pleas for only essential travel.
“The urge of many Californians to gather in ways and do so that are not COVID safe are going to lead to transmission,” said California Health and Human Services Secretary Dr. Mark Ghaly.
“I’m planning on staying within my close circle and staying as safe as possible,” said San Francisco resident Mark Lara.
Lines stretched as people have been waiting at testing sites across the Bay Area this week.
“People are trying to be more conscious of where they are where they’re going and want to be safe and make sure they’re not spreading the disease more,” said Lara.
Top health officials say most hospitals are stretched thin, but the California Department of Health on Tuesday said it hasn’t heard of any reports of doctors having to choose one patient over another because of a lack of ventilators.
“If hospitals report implementing crisis care, then other hospitals will be asked to share resources and to temporarily change operations,” said Ghaly.
“I plan on doing the same thing and staying inside until everything comes back down,” said San Francisco resident Stanley Valenton.
The state of hospitals in the Bay Area is very different from what Southern California is seeing right now.
“Hospitals are running out of staff, using rooms they don’t traditionally use, and seeing much longer wait times in ER departments,” said Ghaly.
ICU capacity has already dipped to zero in Southern California and the San Joaquin Valley regions, while the Bay Area is hovering a little over 10%.
The California Department of Health’s latest four-week projection indicates ICU capacity will not improve enough in Southern California or San Joaquin Valley hospital regions, which is why officials have extended the regional stay-at-home orders in those two areas.
“The surge is still our biggest yet. We can’t afford a Christmas surge on top of a New Year’s surge,” said Director of San Francisco Department of Public Health Dr. Grant Colfax.