Coronavirus cases are surging in San Francisco and infections among adults aged 25 to 39 are the main driver of the increase.
In May, 25- to 39-year-olds accounted for just over 35% of monthly new cases, but in July, they're up to 50%. This surge is part of a general spike in the number of coronavirus cases in San Francisco, which has outpaced the statewide infection rate.
"It's a perfect storm," said Dr. Peter Chin-Hong, a professor of medicine specializing in infectious diseases at UCSF.
That storm, he said, is a mix of the relatively lower rate of vaccination among those age groups and their general tendency to be social, combined with the proliferation of a the extra-contagious delta variant.
The delta variant began spreading like wildfire in the state soon after the state reopened June 15, eliminating or relaxing virus-related restrictions. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is recommending once again that all people wear masks indoors .
With this variant, the same old precautions don't work as well, Chin-Hong said. "This is a less forgiving virus."
The current monthly totals of coronavirus cases among the 25 to 39 age groups have exceeded July 2020 levels, with more than 1,400 new cases as of Friday, compared with just over 1,200 last year.
"The people who are in this age group, 25 to 29 and 30 to 39, they're moving around more for social as well as potentially work reasons," the doctor said.
The San Francisco Department of Public Health also pointed to the relatively low vaccination rates among adults in those age groups as the likely reason for their high infection rates. The city's vaccination data shows adults aged 25 to 34 had the lowest rate of any eligible age group at just over 72% with at least one dose and 66% for those who are fully vaccinated.
"We know the delta variant is much more likely to infect and spread in the unvaccinated, hence we would expect case rates to increase in that age group as well," the department said in a statement.
Chin-Hong of UCSF said there may be some 25- to 39-year-olds who feel healthy and invincible, or otherwise reluctant to get vaccinated, but the lower vaccination rate among that population can also be explained by the fact that older and more vulnerable people were prioritized in governments' vaccination efforts.
Public health authorities have been trying to catch up, often offering incentives, including cash prizes , for people to get vaccinated, but with mixed results, he said. With the delta variant as strong and infectious as it is, there may have to be more drastic measures, such as employers, bars and restaurants requiring proof of vaccination or negative test results, as many now are .
"It's super inconvenient to keep on doing tests all the time," Chin-Hong said. "Some people might want to do it, but I would be surprised if people would want to continue to do that, particularly if they like to go hang out with their friends in a bar setting."
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