2 patients, 3 staff test positive for COVID-19 at UCSF

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UCSF Hellen Diller Medical Center Hospital in San Francisco on March 20, 2020.

UCSF Hellen Diller Medical Center Hospital in San Francisco on March 20, 2020.

Douglas Zimmerman/SFGate

UCSF is investigating whether five COVID-19 infections identified at a unit over the past week were the result of transmission within the hospital.

Two patients sharing a room and three employees who cared for them tested positive, and both patients were negative before being admitted to the hospital, UCSF said in a statement released Tuesday.

The small cluster was first identified when one of the patients unexpectedly tested positive on a routine discharge test. A contact-tracing effort found the other cases.

Neither of the patients are displaying any symptoms and the three staff have only mild symptoms, according to the statement.

“We have not yet determined the original source or exact sequence of these infections,” UCSF said. “However, we have isolated these patients and employees, and are working to identify, test and quarantine other individuals who may have been exposed to them, or who have symptoms.”

The location of the unit where the patients and staff tested positive hasn’t been revealed.

UCSF said it is working with the California and San Francisco departments of public health to address the situation.

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Can SF survive the fall COVID-19 surge? UCSF doctor responds

The deadly fall COVID-19 surge health officials have been warning about for months has swept the United States and is being blamed in part on Americans not wearing masks, as well as the onset of cold weather that is forcing people indoors, where the virus can spread more easily.

The average number of new cases per day in the U.S. has soared more than 40% over the past two weeks, from around 49,000 to about 70,000. Deaths per day have climbed from about 700 to almost 800.

So far, San Francisco has steered clear of the surge as the city continues to control the virus with its residents wearing masks, businesses and schools reopening slowly and scientists and politicians collaborating on public health orders.

Can the city survive what some are calling the third wave?

“I’ll go out on a limb and say yes … and hope that I’m not proven wrong,” Dr. Bob Wachter, chair of the Department of Medicine at UCSF, wrote in one of his weekly Twitter threads on the COVID-19 pandemic.

Wachter said that he’s hopeful S.F. won’t experience a fall explosion in cases based on how the city has responded to the virus with vigilance since the start of the pandemic, when Mayor London Breed declared a local state of emergency.

“When I walk or drive around SF, I see evidence of why Covid cases & deaths are the lowest of any big city in the U.S. Masking is near universal, Ubers & Lyfts have their windows wide open, & there are pop-up outdoor eating spaces everywhere,” he wrote.

He added, “History is with us: when all of California began to surge in June, SF was able to turn it around – whereas much of the rest of CA didn’t and was hit far harder. Ditto for the southern states.”

Coronavirus cases are spreading across the United States like wildfire, with infections on the rise in every state but Virginia, according to covidexitstrategy.org. Deaths are up in 34 states.

The states seeing the highest rates of newly confirmed infections are mostly in the Midwest and the Plains.

California has seen an uptick in coronavirus-related hospitalizations and intensive care admissions in the past two weeks, prompting renewed warnings Tuesday from Gov. Gavin Newsom and the state’s top health official even as newly confirmed cases remain well below the recent surge across much of the nation.

Statewide, hospitalizations increased 4.7% over the past 14 days and intensive care cases are up 5.9% over the same period. That contrasts with more than a month of double-digit declines in both categories after the state retrenched this summer and

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UCSF doctor estimates US death total if entire country acted like SF

San Francisco has become the poster child for how to control coronavirus cases and deaths amid the pandemic, with its residents wearing masks, businesses and schools reopening slowly and scientists and politicians working together to create public health orders.

The result of the county and city’s vigilant behavior has been the lowest death rate of any major city in the country and remarkably low cases rates considering S.F. is a densely populated city.

What if all Americans followed the Northern California city’s approach to the pandemic?

A lot of deaths would have been avoided, UCSF coronavirus expert Dr. Bob Wachter told the LA Times for a story on S.F.’s COVID-19 success.

“There would be 50,000 dead from the pandemic instead of more than 220,000,” Wachter told the Times.

San Francisco County (pop. 880,000) has recorded 12,152 cases and 140 deaths since the start of the pandemic, with roughly 1,373 cases and 16 deaths per 100,000 residents, according to Johns Hopkins University. By comparison, Los Angeles County (pop. 10 million) has recorded 299,760 cases and 6,993 deaths, with 2,966 cases and 69 deaths per 100,0000; New York County (Manhattan, pop. 1.6 million) falls in at 33,128 total cases and a death toll of 2,545, with 2,034 cases and 156 deaths per 100,000.

Because of its low case and death rates, San Francisco is the first urban center in California to see viral transmission reach the “minimal,” or yellow, tier in the state’s reopening plan. Several rural counties with small populations, such as Shasta and Mendocino counties, are in the most-restrictive purple tier due to widespread infection, requiring many businesses and activities to close.

While many other major U.S. cities such as New York experienced terrifying periods with skyrocketing cases that filled hospital beds beyond capacity, San Francisco has kept its number of cases relatively low, with some ups and downs, yet no major surge that overwhelmed the city’s health care system and impacted its ability to provide optimal care.

“The low case rate is a result of people acting well, and acting well is everything from city health leaders doing the right thing to the people doing the right thing,” Wachter, chair of UCSF’s Department of Medicine, told SFGATE for a previous story on the city’s low death rate. “We have very high rates of mask-wearing, probably the highest in the country. I think from the beginning people have trusted the science, trusted the guidance. You don’t hear in S.F. that COVID is a hoax. People have generally taken this very seriously and I think the leadership from the mayor and the regional health directors has been terrific.”

In April, Wachter sent a team of UCSF doctors to New York to help during the height of the East Coast city’s pandemic and his colleagues told “horror stories about what they saw in good hospitals.”

“At UCSF, you’ll have one nurse taking care of you,” he said. “In Queens, at the height of things, it was one nurse to seven or eight

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4 UCSF Faculty Elected to the National Academy of Medicine for 2020

Four UC San Francisco faculty members are among the 100 new national and international members elected this year to the National Academy of Medicine (NAM), one of the highest honors in the fields of health of medicine.

Membership in the NAM recognizes individuals who have demonstrated outstanding professional achievements and commitment to service in the medical sciences, health care and public health.

“This distinguished and diverse class of new members is a truly exceptional group of scholars and leaders whose expertise in science, medicine, health, and policy will be integral to helping the NAM address today’s most pressing health challenges and inform the future of health and health care for the benefit of everyone around the globe,” National Academy of Medicine President Victor J. Dzau said in a press release. “It is my privilege to welcome these esteemed individuals to the National Academy of Medicine.”

This year, this distinguished group welcomes four UCSF faculty:

  • Mark Anderson, MD, PhD, professor of medicine and Robert B. Friend and Michelle M. Friend Endowed Chair in Diabetes Research
  • Edward Chang, MD, Jeanne Robertson Distinguished Professor and Joan and Sandy Weill Chair of the Department of Neurological Surgery
  • Aleksandar Rajkovic, MD, PhD, Stuart Lindsay Distinguished Professor in Experimental Pathology and Chief Genomics Officer of UCSF Health
  • Robert Wachter, MD, Holly Smith Distinguished Professor in Science and Medicine, Benioff Endowed Chair in Hospital Medicine, and chair of the Department of Medicine
Mark Anderson portrait

Mark Anderson, MD, PhD

Anderson is a physician-scientist who cares for patients with autoimmune endocrine diseases such as type 1 diabetes. This focus extends into the lab, where his research examines the genetic control of autoimmune diseases to better understand the mechanisms by which immune tolerance is broken.

In particular, his lab is interested in how the thymus trains the immune system to distinguish proteins made by the body itself from proteins made by invasive pathogens. For example, they have shown that some thymus cells produce “self” proteins and others even differentiate into skin or gut cells to test newborn T cells for autoimmune tendencies. Understanding these mechanisms could one day lead to medical interventions that suppress or enhance immune activity.

Anderson is a member of the UCSF Diabetes Center and the UCSF Bakar ImmunoX Initiative, director of the UCSF Medical Scientist Training Program, and current president of the Federation of Clinical Immunology.

Edward Chang smiling.

Edward Chang, MD

Chang is a neurosurgeon-scientist and chair of the Department of Neurological Surgery. He specializes in advanced brain mapping methods to preserve crucial areas for language and cognitive functions in the brain. Chang is a member of the UCSF Weill Institute for Neurosciences and co-director of the Center for Neural Engineering and Prostheses, a collaboration between UCSF and UC Berkeley.

Chang’s research focuses on the brain mechanisms for human behaviors such as speech and mood. For example, by studying the brain activity associated with the physical movements of speaking, his team was able to teach a computer to decode and transform these brain signals into synthetic speech. This technology has

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UCSF study in Bay Area neighborhood reveals 10% of those tested have COVID-19 antibody

UC San Francisco released a preliminary analysis Thursday of data from a coronavirus testing effort in Oakland’s Fruitvale neighborhood and it confirmed what other similar studies have found: The novel coronavirus disproportionately affects the Latino community.

UCSF, in conjunction with local community groups, offered free, voluntary COVID-19 testing Sept. 26 and 27 in Fruitvale, a corner of Alameda County that has had the highest rates of COVID. Fruitvale is 50% Latino and home to one of the largest Mayan-speaking populations outside of Mexico, according to UCSF. Many residents live in multigenerational households.

Nearly 2,000 people were tested for either active infection or antibodies.

A total of 1,099 people were tested for active infection with nose swabs, and of those, 4% tested positive (29 adults and 10 children).

Of those with coronavirus, 95% were Latino, though they represented 62% of individuals tested, according to UCSF.

Of the 859 individuals (803 adults and 56 children) who were tested for the COVID-19 antibody, 10% were positive, suggesting past infection. Latino individuals had a positivity rate of 12% and those of Mayan heritage 27%.

At a Friday morning press conference, Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf called the study results “disturbing but not unexpected data” revealing the health disparities in the city. “And let’s be honest, in the world,” she added.

“Our data further identifies the Mam speaking, Mayan population as particularly high risk within the Latino community,” Dr. Alicia Fernandez, a professor of medicine and director of the UCSF Latinx Center of Excellence, said in a statement. “More testing and targeted public health messaging are needed, as are efforts to make essential work safer.”

Researchers also gathered data to examine the overall impact of the pandemic and found 25% of Latinos who received a nose swab test have seen a reduction in income, 15% have lost their jobs and 42% face food insecurity. Sixty-one percent of Mam (Mayan) speakers said they were food insecure.
“It is not new that we are the underserved and one of the most vulnerable groups in the area, and now with COVID-19 we are facing an even greater crisis especially with access to health services, housing, food and financial support. That is why we are here today, we are here to ask for more testing and assistance with essential needs,” Rosendo Aguilar, Fruitvale community member and Mam speaker, said in a statement.

UCSF study conducted a similar effort in San Francisco’s Mission District in April and found 95% of positive individuals were of Latino heritage.

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