Bay Area and statewide COVID-19 infections rates are up over the past couple of months and health officials are advising people to get the updated vaccines when they become available.

In California, 13.7 percent of people who took COVID tests reported positive results for the seven-day period ending Sept. 6, just a 0.4 percent increase over the previous week, according to numbers posted on the California Health and Human Services Agency (HHS) website.

California has experienced an increase in the number of administered COVID-19 diagnostic tests in recent weeks, as well a rise in positive test results. In the latest figures available, the 7-day positivity rate was 13.7 percent for the week ended Sept. 5, 2023. (California Department of Public Health)

The last time test rates were that high was back on Aug. 1, 2022, when the seven-day test positivity rate was 14 percent.

And while the current week-over-week increase is small, case numbers have been steadily growing statewide since the end of June, when HHS reported that 4.3 percent of tests came back positive for COVID.

At the same time, people appear to be getting less sick when they contract the virus, with the seven-day statewide average of new hospital admissions hitting about 375 on Sept. 1, compared to 519 on Sept. 1, 2022.

“It is encouraging that despite this wave, we are not seeing a proportionate increase in the severity of illness compared with prior surges,” said Dr. Stephen Parodi, an infectious disease specialist and clinical lead for Kaiser Permanente’s coronavirus response.

The trend isn’t our friend

That trend is mirrored in the Bay Area, where every county has seen an increase in positive COVID tests since June 30.

For example, the seven-day test positivity rate in San Mateo County was 6.7 percent at the end of June but now stands at 16.3 percent, a 2.6 percent increase from the previous week.

Additionally, there were 49 new COVID hospitalizations in the county, a 4.3 percent increase from the previous week, according to HHS.

Marin County’s seven-day test positivity percentage was 15.1 — a 1 percent decrease from the previous week and a 5.4 percentage point increase from June 30 — and there were 17 new hospitalizations in the county, a 26.1 percent decrease from the previous week.

“We continue to encourage people with symptoms to take precautions, mask, and isolate when possible, in addition to seeking treatment for COVID-19 as appropriate from their providers.”

Dr. Stephen Parodi, Kaiser Permanente infectious disease specialist

The seven-day positive test percentages for Alameda, Contra Costa, Solano, Sonoma, Santa Cruz and Napa counties all ranged from about 11 percent to 14.5 percent, while the percentages for San Francisco, Santa Clara and San Joaquin counties ranged from just over 8 percent to 9 percent.

“We continue to encourage people with symptoms to take precautions, mask, and isolate when possible, in addition to seeking treatment for COVID-19 as appropriate from their providers,” Parodi said. “We also recommend individuals get the anticipated COVID-19 vaccine when it becomes available soon so we can continue to protect against severe illness.”

On Tuesday, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced that updated vaccines from Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna will be available later this week and the California Department of Public Health said all state residents should avail themselves of the new shots.

Who should get vaccinated and when

State health officials said everyone ages 5 and older should get one dose of the updated COVID-19 vaccine, as long as it has been two months or more since their most recent dose.

Recommendations for younger children depend on the number of doses received previously.

“Staying up to date on the COVID-19 vaccine is the best way to keep your immunity strong and protect yourself and others from severe illness, hospitalization, and death,” said CDPH director and state public health officer Dr. Tomas Aragon. “As we enter the winter season, it is crucial that all individuals remain up to date with vaccinations when they’re eligible, including flu, COVID-19 and RSV.”

People can schedule a vaccine appointment by visiting or contacting their local pharmacy or health care provider.

Kiley Russell writes primarily for Local News Matters on issues related to equity and the environment. A Bay Area native, he has lived most of his life in Oakland. He studied journalism at San Francisco State University, worked for the Associated Press and the former Contra Costa Times, among other outlets. He has covered everything from state legislatures, local governments, federal and state courts, crime, growth and development, political campaigns of various stripes, wildfires and the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.