Covid Cases Drop in California, but Experts Warn of a Winter Surge

After a worrisome summer surge, Covid-19 cases have been dropping in California, and across the country, in recent weeks.

The state’s test positivity rate reached 13 percent in late August, its highest level since the summer of 2022, but has since dropped to seven percent. The weekly average of new Covid hospitalizations has fallen by about 30 percent since a peak in early September, according to state data. And across California, coronavirus levels in wastewater appear to be declining.

As the Los Angeles County public health director, Barbara Ferrer, told The Los Angeles Times this month: “The summer bump is over.”

But public health experts are framing this moment as a reprieve, rather than a true end to our Covid worries. They expect a winter swell in cases, as has happened each year since the pandemic began.

“We’ve seen this story before,” Dr. Peter Chin-Hong, an infectious-disease specialist with the University of California, San Francisco, recently told The San Francisco Chronicle. “We have a small bump in the summer, and then it goes down. People get complacent and it comes back to a high level following Halloween and Thanksgiving.”

Given that pattern, the Biden administration has made free at-home Covid tests available once again. And experts are recommending that everyone 6 months and older receive an updated booster. The shots, which were released last month, have been reformulated to better fight off the latest variants, and most Americans can receive one at no cost.

Dr. Tomás Aragón, director of the California Department of Public Health, said in a statement that staying up to date on Covid vaccines was the best way to “keep your immunity strong and protect yourself and others from severe illness, hospitalization and death.” He added that the new booster might also lessen symptoms for milder cases, allowing people to return to their normal lives quicker.

And if you need an extra reason, consider what public health experts have called the “tripledemic”: There’s concern that a winter Covid surge could coincide with the usual annual uptick in influenza and respiratory syncytial virus — which is what happened last year — and make large numbers of people ill, straining hospital resources across the country.

As such, federal health officials are urging Americans to get their shots against all three viruses this fall.

“October is the best time to get the flu vaccine and updated Covid vaccine,” Dr. Mandy Cohen, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, told The San Francisco Chronicle while visiting a Bay Area nursing home last week. She added: “The severity of the season has a lot to do with how many folks get vaccinations. The more folks that get vaccinated, we’ll have the ability to have a more mild season.”

Today’s tip comes from Regan Davis, who lives in Carmichael. Davis recommends Noyo Headlands Park in Fort Bragg, on the Mendocino Coast:

“On a recent visit to Fort Bragg, we walked across Highway 1 from our motel room to the old airstrip that now serves as the parking lot at the south end of the Noyo Headlands Trail. The harbor’s fog horn moaned in the distance as we walked toward the loud barking of several seals — an argument over buoy rights. On the trail, the air is gentle to the touch and colorful wildflowers brace the cliffs. The west is all Pacific Ocean; Point Mendocino stretches into the northern horizon. Ahhhhh.”

Tell us about your favorite places to visit in California. Email your suggestions to [email protected]. We’ll be sharing more in upcoming editions of the newsletter.

What are the best things that have happened to you so far this year? What have been your wins? Or your unexpected joys, big or small?

Tell me at [email protected]. Please include your full name and the city where you live.

A new park celebrating the history of San Jose’s Chinese American community opened to the public last week with a festive ceremony and sake toast.

The park, Heinlenville Park, in the city’s Japantown district, is named for John Heinlen, a ​​German immigrant and businessman. Heinlen helped the local Chinese community rebuild after an 1887 fire believed to be an act of arson ravaged the downtown area that was home to the city’s original Chinatown. Acting as a landlord, Heinlen provided inexpensive leases to the community, paving the way for an energetic Chinese cultural hub that came to be known as Heinlenville.

The neighborhood disappeared just four decades later in part because of the Chinese Exclusion Act, but its mark on the city can now be felt, and seen, because of Heinlenville Park.

“You will not read about the legacy of John Heinlen in history, but you will experience it here,” Connie Young Yu, a historian, told The Mercury News. “This park embodies a story San Jose should be proud of.”

The park will be used as a multicultural gathering space and includes details like a 19-foot metal sculpture with traditional Asian symbols and a paved path that traces the area’s Chinese American history.

Thanks for reading. I’ll be back tomorrow. — Soumya

P.S. Here’s today’s Mini Crossword.

Maia Coleman and Briana Scalia contributed to California Today. You can reach the team at [email protected].

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