Delta infections among SF General Hospital workers bring concerns to experts

Josue Torres
Photo by Walter Otto.Unsplash

Over the last six weeks, dozens of fully vaccinated staff employees at two San Francisco hospitals have contracted COVID-19, nearly all of whom were infected in the community rather than on the workplace, as the delta-fueled fourth wave swept the city.

Thirty-five employees at San Francisco General Hospital have been diagnosed with the coronavirus, according to Dr. Luke Day, the hospital’s chief medical officer. 

Three-quarters of them have received all of their vaccinations. Although this figure represents a tiny fraction of the 7,000-person workforce, it represents approximately the same number of staff illnesses that were recorded during the height of the winter spike.

Since mid-June, approximately 140 UCSF workers, out of 35,000 overall, have been infected, according to Dr. Ralph Gonzalez, UCSF Health’s chief innovation officer. Approximately 80% of individuals who tested positive had been properly vaccinated.

None of the afflicted employees were ill enough to need hospitalization. Both hospitals claim to have measures in place to cover individuals who are ill or unable to work as a result of COVID exposure.
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Administrators, on the other hand, are worried about possible personnel shortages if the influx grows. 

With mounting evidence that the delta variant can infect and spread even among those who have been vaccinated, they’re urging the public to put on masks once more and resume some of the other social distancing precautions they largely abandoned six weeks ago when the state repealed most public health mandates.

When the state reopened on June 15, just as the extremely contagious delta strain was quietly beginning to dominate, individuals discarded their masks and began gathering again, reflecting what’s occurring in the wider community.

Since then, infections have been doubling every two weeks or so throughout the Bay Area, and although infection rates are considerably higher among the unvaccinated, post-vaccination breakout cases seem to be more frequent than health experts had predicted.

However, Gonzalez believes that vaccinations are still effective in preventing the majority of illnesses.

COVID hospitalizations have been on the rise at San Francisco General and other Bay Area hospitals. 

More than 600 individuals have been hospitalized in the Bay Area with COVID as of Thursday, a roughly fourfold rise since June 15. 

In San Francisco, hospitalizations have risen fivefold, from 16 patients six weeks ago to 83 patients on Thursday.

As of Thursday afternoon, 17 individuals were hospitalized with COVID at San Francisco General, much less than the winter peak, when up to 70 people were hospitalized and one out of every four patients had COVID. 

Only one person was hospitalized with COVID six weeks ago, according to Day.

Both San Francisco General Hospital and UCSF have resurrected their surge plans and procedures to maintain hospital capacity. 

Coronavirus testing has been reinstated for all patients admitted to the hospital, regardless of vaccination status.

The rising infection rates among UCSF employees, according to Gonzalez, are an early indication that a fourth wave is brewing in San Francisco.
Photo by JC Gellidon.Unsplash

The hospital observed an increase in employees seeking coronavirus testing due to COVID symptoms in late June, less than two weeks after the state reopened. 

To keep up with the demand for testing and case investigation at the hospital, he added, they’ve had to add personnel to the occupational safety team.

Cases have been recorded among various kinds of personnel at both institutions, including physicians and nurses. 

Almost everyone in the neighborhood was infected, whether they were going to bars or restaurants, shopping, traveling, or hanging out with friends.

 Like everyone else in this epidemic, hospital employees took advantage of the state’s reopening to take off their masks and reconnect with friends and relatives.

After being on the front lines and treating the sickest patients for so long, hospital managers and employees said it’s particularly tough for health care professionals to be facing yet another surge. 

After experiencing what seemed like post-pandemic liberation, they realize that this is a difficult moment for everyone.

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