Bay Area health officials urge protection against winter respiratory viruses

Health officials in all 11 counties in the greater Bay Area urged the region’s residents Thursday to protect themselves from COVID-19, flu, and other respiratory viruses during the winter holidays.

In a joint statement, the health officials from all 11 counties and the city of Berkeley — which operates as an independent public health jurisdiction — said residents should get vaccinated against COVID and the flu if they have yet to do so as well as a COVID booster vaccine if they are eligible. COVID and flu vaccines are both available to all residents aged 6 months and older. The currently available COVID booster vaccine also protects against two strains of the highly contagious omicron variant.

(Editor’s note: Dr. Ruth Link-Gelles, the program lead of COVID-19 vaccine effectiveness at the CDC and lieutenant commander in the U.S. Public Health Service, said in a video interview with Dr. Katelyn Jetelina this week that U.S data shows that the fall boosters are working to broaden protection, help against infection, protect against severe disease, and — maybe — provide longer protection. However, more than 150 million people are eligible for a fall booster in the U.S. and have yet to get one.)

The health officials also urged Bay Area residents to stay home if sick and wear a mask in indoor spaces. People should also test for COVID before attending an indoor gathering or event and seek treatment for any respiratory virus if necessary.

“Across the Bay Area, respiratory viruses impact the most vulnerable, including young children, the immunocompromised, people living in crowded housing or congregate living facilities, and seniors, especially at skilled nursing facilities,” the health officers for all 11 counties and the city of Berkeley said.

State and local health officials have signaled in recent weeks that transmission of respiratory viruses like COVID, the flu and respiratory syncytial virus are already starting to overwhelm health care systems and facilities. Flu and RSV activity in particular is higher than normal for mid-December and all three viruses are affecting large numbers of both older adults and young children.

The San Francisco Chronicle reported on Friday that the Bay Area is seeing the most substantial uptick in COVID-19 cases in the state right now:

Dr. Erica Pan, the state epidemiologist, told doctors in an online event this week that the California Department of Public Health is tracking several indicators that point to the worsening trends, including the positive test rate, hospitalizations and wastewater samples from dozens of sewer sheds.

Information about how to avoid winter respiratory viruses and get vaccinated can be found via the state’s Department of Public Health at as well as an individual county’s public health department.

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