SAN MATEO COUNTY (CBS SF) – The health officer in San Mateo County urged patience among county residents for the COVID-19 vaccine, as local hospitals continue to be strained by the ongoing surge in cases.

In a lengthy statement detailing the state of the pandemic on the Peninsula, Health Officer Dr. Scott Morrow said Tuesday case rates and deaths are 10 times higher than they were back in September and October, before the current surge.

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“Hospitals are bursting at the seams, and they are perilously close to breaking. When the health care system gets to this point, care can be compromised for everyone, irrespective of whether you are worried about COVID or not,” Morrow said.

As of Tuesday, there have been 32,596 COVID-19 cases in San Mateo County since the start of the pandemic, and 309 people in the county have died. Currently there are 181 people in the county hospitalized with COVID-19, 44 in the ICU. The county has 3 ICU beds available and 88 ICU surge beds.

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As for the status of vaccinations in San Mateo County, Morrow said the current supply is “massively inadequate” in response to the demand and urged patience, saying supply constraints won’t last forever.

“At some point this year, probably before the fall, the vaccine will be available to everyone who wants it,” the health officer said.

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Morrow also said that vaccinations are not a “free pass” from flouting public health guidelines aimed at slowing the spread of the virus, which will likely be in place for the foreseeable future.

“Masking, social distancing and not gathering will be a way of life for us for some time to come, probably at least through most of 2021,” he said.

The health officer closed his statement urging residents to practice gratitude, saying the fact that vaccines are even available a year into the pandemic is “beyond amazing.”

“Think of how much worse off we’d be without this option. We’d be in our current situation for, potentially, years,” he said. “Can you imagine the physical and economic carnage and death we’d experience by having to reach herd immunity through the route of natural infection?”

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“You will be able to get your vaccine this year. Hang in there,” Morrow concluded.