The San Mateo County Event Center, located in San Mateo, Calif, served as a mass COVID-19 testing and vaccination site during the COVID-19 pandemic. In September 2021 it hosted its first large business gathering since the start of the pandemic. (Photo courtesy San Mateo County Event Center)

The COVID-19 situation in San Mateo County continues to look up, as case rates have declined by 96 percent since the county’s peak in early January.

There are 10 cases per 100,000 people in the county this week, down from 16 cases per 100,000 a week ago, according to state data. Deaths and hospitalizations are also declining.

And on March 15, the San Mateo County Event Center will close its drive-thru testing operations. During the pandemic, the Event Center had served as a site for mass COVID vaccinations and testing.

Chief of San Mateo County Health Louise Rogers told the county’s Board of Supervisors on Tuesday that this would bring the Event Center’s support of COVID operations to a close. She thanked the center’s staff for their support.

“We just could not have mobilized at the level we did without their partnership,” Rogers said.

Testing will continue at other sites in the county plus rapid antigen test kits are available at pharmacies.

Rogers added that the county does not hear about test results that come from residents taking rapid antigen tests at home, which means they are not able to contact trace.

This is one of the reasons that the county has pulled back its universal contact tracing efforts to focus on investigating outbreaks in high-risk settings, like shelters, jails or congregate care facilities.

The omicron surge has also made it difficult to continue universal contact tracing, according to Srija Srinivasan, deputy chief of San Mateo County Health.

“In this omicron surge, when that duration of transmission was so short, one to three days, then it’s more challenging to apply a tool like contact tracing which relies on the lab result getting to public health (and) the public health staff member reaching the resident,” Srinivasan said.

Plus, Srinvasan said that contact tracing was more important before vaccinations were widely available.

As of Sunday, 89 percent of county residents have received at least one dose of the COVID vaccine.

Dr. Anand Chabra, the county’s vaccination section chief, said that the county will continue to provide predictable vaccine clinics, despite seeing a decrease in vaccinations at its sites.

“Our message that it’s not too late to be vaccinated and to get a booster remains relevant as vaccination is the most important action that every eligible resident can take to protect themselves from the risks of severe disease or death,” Chabra said.

County supervisors also expressed interest in returning to in-person board meetings or having a hybrid model, where people can participate in meetings in person or online.

The Board of Supervisors meetings have been virtual since March 24, 2020.

County spokesperson Michelle Durand said via email that more people are participating in the meetings now.

“According to the clerks who run the meetings, we’re seeing more participation now than when we first started meeting virtually back in March 2020 but it fluctuates depending upon what is on the agenda,” Durand said.

Information on COVID vaccinations, testing and more are available at https://www.smchealth.org/coronavirus.