Next 2 weeks are 'critical' to avoid 4th COVID-19 surge, doctors say

UCSF Dr. George Rutherford says California will be closer to herd immunity levels once at least 60% of the state's population has received at least one dose of the vaccine.

Video Transcript

- Well, there has been a lot of talk about a possible fourth surge of COVID-19 in parts of the country. California may be able to avoid that. ABC7 News reporter Stephanie Sierra is here to explain, Stephanie, why we may be able to dodge the bullet.

STEPHANIE SIERRA: Yes, Dan. Public health officials are cautiously optimistic the Bay Area won't be facing a fourth wave. And let's hope that's the case. But as experts pointed out today, nothing is off the table when we have a record number of COVID variants circulating the state.

As COVID cases surge in many parts of the Midwest and East Coast, the Bay Area is in good shape, but good enough to avoid a fourth wave, or is that still possible?

GEORGE RUTHERFORD: I think it's a distant possibility, but I really doubt it.

STEPHANIE SIERRA: Dr. George Rutherford, UCSF's lead epidemiologist, says it all comes back to the rate of transmission. Every county in the Bay Area is reporting a slight increase in case rates per 100,000 people. By slight increase, we're talking less than 1% over the past week. Only Napa and Solano counties reached above that, with more than 2%.

GEORGE RUTHERFORD: And two is like almost nothing. Some of these Midwestern counties was 56%, at some points.

STEPHANIE SIERRA: Most of the Bay Area's case rates have stabilized.

- We've seen a high compliance with the rules and regulations.

STEPHANIE SIERRA: But with a record number of COVID variants across the state, we're not immune from another wave.

If we were to see a fourth wave, when do you anticipate that happening?

GEORGE RUTHERFORD: Well, if it were to happen, it would happen sooner rather than later.

STEPHANIE SIERRA: As soon as two weeks. Rutherford says it's all about the pace of vaccinations. Right now is the most vulnerable time as California waits for its next batch of doses.

GEORGE RUTHERFORD: There's not a lot of transmission going on right now, but there's a fair amount. There's 2,500 cases a day in California. But, you know, what we want it to be is zero.

STEPHANIE SIERRA: The only way to get to zero, as UCSF Dr. Monica Gandhi explains, is herd immunity.

MONICA GANDHI: You reach a certain percentage of the population that's vaccinated, and you keep your prudent restrictions, which we need to do, and the cases start coming down because vaccines do stop transmission.

STEPHANIE SIERRA: Currently, 43% of Californians have received at least one dose. And Dr. Rutherford estimates we'll be close to Herd immunity levels once that number jumps above 60%, taking into account those who have naturally acquired immunity. Stephanie Sierra, ABC7 News.