Omicron variant in California: Bay Area slips back to higher levels of transmission risk – San Francisco Chronicle

Downtown Oakland COVID clinic “abruptly closes:” A COVID clinic that offered free walk-up vaccination and testing closed due to “significant” shortages of staff and vaccines, a city spokeswoman said. The clinic, operated by a nonprofit called “COVID Clinic,” had been offering services since Sept. 15 at City Hall. “The City of Oakland is extremely disappointed that they were unable to fulfill their agreement to extend services through the end of December as previously announced,” the city said in a statement.

Marin parents could face criminal charges for sending sick kid to school: Marin County health officials have asked prosecutors to determine whether parents who knowingly sent their child to class with a coronavirus infection — a decision that led to an outbreak at the child’s public elementary school — should face criminal charges. The incident happened before Thanksgiving, when the infected child and a sibling who also tested positive were sent to Neil Cummins Elementary School in Corte Madera after being notified by public health officials of the positive test result. In a statement issued Tuesday, the Marin County Public Heath Department said “the case has been referred to law enforcement and the District Attorney’s Office for review and action for failure to comply” with county health orders.

U.K. signals alarm over omicron, goes back into partial lockdown: Prime Minister Boris Johnson unveiled a set of new restrictions on Wednesday, citing the rapid spread of the omicron variant in the county. “It’s now the proportionate and the responsible thing to move to plan B,” Johnson said on Twitter. Starting Monday, people must work from home, wear masks in most indoor public spaces and show proof of vaccination for entry into large venues. The U.K. reported 339,861 confirmed positive cases between Dec. 2 and 8, a jump of more than 11% compared to the previous week.

Bay Area counties slip back to ‘substantial’ and ‘high’ transmission tiers: After starting the week with eight of the nine regional counties in the yellow “moderate” tier of coronavirus transmission risk on the CDC’s color-coded map, all Bay Area counties are now back in the orange “substantial” tier for community spread. Marin County is the exception, falling into the worst red or “high” tier for transmission, despite its high levels of vaccination. The county’s health officer, Dr. Matt Willis, said earlier this week that his department is shifting to counting hospitalizations, not cases, as the primary metric for pandemic response policies because most COVID-19 cases among vaccinated patients are mild.

Getting a COVID-19 vaccine in the afternoon appears to prompt a stronger immune response: A study from Massachusetts General Hospital that tracked the effectiveness of vaccines against the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus among 2,784 British health care workers has found that those who got Pfizer-BioNTech or Astrazeneca shots after 3 p.m. showed a higher number of antibodies two and six weeks later than those who received vaccines earlier in the day. The findings, published Dec. 4 in the Journal of Biological Rhythms, built on previous work correlating symptoms and immune response for other diseases with the 24-hour circadian rhythms that underlie the human biological clock. The report did not explain or speculate why a shot later in the day could be more effective, and identified several limitations to the study that suggest the need for further research. Co-author Dr. Elizabeth Klerman noted to the Boston Herald that getting vaccinated at any time of the day is still better than not at all.

Nearly 500 Los Angeles school employees fired for missing vaccination deadline: The Los Angeles Unified School District school board on Tuesday voted unanimously in separate motions to terminate 496 employees for refusing to comply with a mandate to get vaccinated against COVID-19 by the Nov. 15 deadline previously set by the committee. Those dismissed make up less than 1% of the district’s 73,000 workers, according to the Associated Press. “Parting ways with individuals who choose not to be vaccinated is an extremely difficult, but necessary decision to ensure the safety of all in our school communities,” interim Superintendent Megan Reilly said in a statement. “We wish everyone the best in their future endeavors and encourage everyone to get vaccinated.”

Risk of reinfection appears greater with omicron: Data from South Africa shows there is an increased risk of COVID-19 re-infection with the omicron coronavirus variant, the director of the World Health Organization said at a Wednesday briefing. Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said the studies are preliminary and more data will be needed to confirm the theory. He also said there is some early evidence to suggest omicron leads to milder symptoms. The variant is now present in 57 countries. “We expect that number to continue growing,” said Ghebreyesus.

‘Please do have the jab’: First person to receive an authorized vaccine one year ago urges people to get vaccinated: Margaret Keenan, the British woman who became the first person to receive an authorized COVID-19 vaccine on Dec. 8, 2020, told the BBC on the anniversary of her shot that she’s been recognized on the street since her highly-publicized inoculation. A year later, she urged people to get vaccinated: “Just go and have it done. It doesn’t take long,” she told the BBC.

Pfizer, BioNTech say their vaccine offers significant protection against omicron variant: Summarizing laboratory findings, the drugmakers said Wednesday that three doses of their vaccine offered significant protection against the omicron variant. Additionally, “the companies believe that vaccinated individuals may still be protected against severe forms of the disease” after two doses.

How a Stanford COVID case illustrates the possible connection between omicron and HIV: A prevailing theory as to how the omicron variant emerged so suddenly and jam-packed with mutations is that it was cultivated in an immune-compromised person — possibly someone with untreated HIV — with an extended coronavirus infection. Read the full story here.

‘Just a cold’? During COVID, how to know if it’s OK to go to holiday gatherings when you have the sniffles: Social gatherings are back on the calendar for many after being largely canceled by COVID-19 last year. But, say, the day before a holiday party, you have a scratchy throat. Or a few days leading up to a big family gathering, you get the sniffles. What should you do? Get a COVID test? Stay home? What should you tell the host and fellow guests? Read the full story here.

Omicron variant found in wastewater in two Northern California counties: The omicron variant of the coronavirus has been detected in wastewater samples in areas of Sacramento and Merced counties, but public health officials emphasized that the delta variant continues to pose the biggest immediate threat. Read the full story here.

Pfizer shots not as strong against omicron as against other strains: The COVID vaccine from Pfizer-BioNTech was found to provide less immunity to the omicron variant than to other major coronavirus strains in laboratory experiments that indicate a booster may still help stop omicron, Bloomberg reports.

COVID cases are rising quickly in highly vaccinated Marin. Here’s why the mask mandate isn’t coming back: Marin County’s COVID-19 case rates are now the highest in the Bay Area. But the county, which has one of the highest vaccination rates in the country, is not seeing a rise in hospitalizations or deaths — illustrating what is perhaps the region’s clearest example of vaccination successfully preventing the worst COVID outcomes. Read the full story here.

Omicron will ‘still be nasty’ if mild, prominent UCSF doctor says: Dr. Bob Wachter, chair of the department of medicine at UCSF, tweeted on Tuesday that even as he hoped that the omicron variant will be less severe than the delta strain of the coronavirus — as preliminary data may indicate — “if Omicron is somewhat less severe but far more transmissible, that’ll still be nasty.” Wachter also noted that the delta variant “remains the major threat & it’s killing >1000 in U.S./day.”

Face masks and omicron: Should you upgrade from cloth to N95s? Double mask? Although Bay Area counties so far have not signaled any changes in their mask policies, the arrival of the omicron variant has many people wondering whether it’s time to double down on their masking habits — and upgrade their face coverings. Read the full story here.

COVID-19 deaths on the rise in the U.S.: The seven-day average of daily deaths linked to COVID-19 in the United States is now more than 1,150, according to data for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. That represents a 57% increase in a week. New cases are also on the rise nationwide, with an average of 103,000 new cases per day.