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Health Expert Sees Hopeful Signs in New Bay Area COVID-19 Infection Statistics

REDWOOD CITY (KPIX) -- While the majority of the coronavirus crisis continues to unfold in Southern California, the state extended the Bay Area's regional stay-at-home order Saturday. It was an expected move after ICU availability in the region dropped to 3%.

"As best we can tell the reproductive number -- the average number of infections, the number of infections one person produces -- has gone down in recent weeks," said UC Berkeley epidemiologist Art Reingold.

Now, more than a week into January, the good news is that virus transmission in the Bay Area has not yet shown a post-holiday spike. The hope is that hospitalizations will soon decline.

"You know, all of that could change in a couple of weeks," Reingold said.

Doctors say one possible driver of more cases is already here and we have a good idea about how quick it could spread.

"We know that, in England because the B117 was so catchy, it became the dominant strain in just three months," explains Stanford University professor Dr. Malathi Srinivasan. "So I think between the surges and the fact that it's already here in the United States, this will probably become the dominant strain in a couple months."

The new variant could work against the state just as we begin to deploy the vaccine for added protection. So what are the chances of getting Bay Area hospitalization numbers down enough to escape the stay-at-home order?

"I would be cautiously optimistic that we might be able to achieve that but it's really difficult from week to week to make predictions," Reingold said. "I think anyone who says that he or she can predict that accurately is probably fooling themselves."

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