San Mateo County Health's Street & Field Medicine team works in partnership with community organization Puente to provide vaccinations in Pescadero. (Photo courtesy of Preston Merchant/San Mateo County Health)

The omicron surge is ending as COVID-19 cases continue to fall in San Mateo County. But new COVID variants will be inevitable, according to county health officials.

Chief of San Mateo County Health Louise Rogers said that the county relies on the state for information about the prevalence of different variants. She was not sure whether omicron subvariant BA.2 was present in San Mateo County yet.

“We are expecting more variants,” Rogers said. “And the question is really… what characteristics they will have.”

Rogers said the state will continue to monitor variants to determine what impact they have, if any. This is part of the state’s SMARTER plan, which stands for shots, masks, awareness, readiness, testing, education and pharmaceutical treatments, abbreviated as Rx. This plan informs the state’s long-term response to COVID, as it moves away from an emergency response.

“That plan acknowledges that the virus will remain with us for some time, if not forever, and that we are in a place of needing to hone our defenses to the virus as it evolves,” Rogers said.

County Health plans to evaluate that plan and coordinate with the state.

“The state’s plan does have an emphasis on readiness,” Rogers said. The plan includes focus on personal protective equipment, supporting hospitals in case of staff shortages and promoting vaccination and boosters.

And regardless of what the future of the pandemic holds, Rogers said the county will be more prepared than before, given the practice they’ve had in the past.

“The amount of learning we’ve done I believe prepares us better to scale up and scale down as needed,” Rogers said.

Case rates and hospitalizations are down across the county and in the state.

San Mateo County is seeing a case rate of 34 cases per 100,000 people, according to state data from Friday. This rate is a steady drop from the case rate a week ago, which was 49 per 100,000 people.

Plus, the positivity rate has dropped to 5 percent countywide.

For the county’s most vulnerable communities, those in its “health equity quartile,” the positivity rate is 7 percent. This means there’s less of a disparity in COVID rates for some of the communities most severely impacted by the pandemic.

Dr. Anand Chabra, San Mateo County Health COVID-19 mass vaccination section chief, encouraged everyone to get vaccinated and boosted to get maximum protection.

As of Monday, 89 percent of all county residents have received at least one dose of the COVID vaccine while 82 percent are fully vaccinated.

Chabra and Rogers acknowledged that there is more work to do to protect every resident, especially in communities where vaccinations rates are lagging below 80 percent.

And when asked about the possibility of a fourth vaccination, Chabra said that only certain severely immunocompromised groups are eligible for a fourth dose of the vaccine at this time.

For the average person, three doses are recommended.

People should also wear a high-quality mask, get tested if they have symptoms or exposure to COVID and isolate when sick.