UCSF’s Dr. Bob Wachter says he’s ready to dine indoors as Biden declares pandemic ‘over’


Dr. Bob Wachter, UCSF’s cautious and data-driven chair of medicine, has taken another pandemic step: he’s ready to dine indoors and ditch his mask in low-traffic indoor settings.

In a typically long Twitter thread On Sunday afternoon, Wachter broke his reasoning, calculating his odds of dying from a dinner party without a mask indoors are around 1 in 200,000 – “consistent with the other risks we all take to do certain things we we like”.

Just three weeks ago, Wachter, who has garnered huge social media following for his advice on COVID-19, tweeted that he was not ready to lose his mask or dine indoors. . The fact that he now feels ready to take both steps indicates that the local COVID-19 situation has improved to the point that even some of the more cautious feel comfortable re-engaging in pre-hobbies. -pandemics.

On the same day, President Joe Biden said the pandemic is ‘over’ on ’60 Minutes’ while strolling through the Detroit auto show. The US government continues means COVID-19 as a public health emergency, which ensures that expanded Medicare coverage, telehealth services, and other pandemic measures remain in place.

“We still have a problem with COVID. We are still working on it a lot. But the pandemic is over. If you notice, no one is wearing a mask. Everyone seems to be in pretty good shape,” Biden said.

Cases are stable or declining in almost every state, although around 400 people in the United States still die from COVID-19 every day, according to the New York Times. Data. Last week, World Health Organization Director General Tedros Ghebreyesus said the end of the pandemic is “not yet here” but “in sight”.

Wachter will always wear his mask in crowded or poorly ventilated indoor spaces or on an airplane — “probably forever,” he wrote. In a group of 150 people on a crowded plane, there’s a 78% chance that at least one person is contagious, Wachter wrote.

“I think to myself, why take ANY risk in situations like these?” said Wachter.

Wachter’s threshold for “liberating” his behavior is when daily cases drop below 5 per 100,000 in the region, Wachter repeated in his Sunday thread. San Francisco is at 6 per 100,000 according to the New York Times Dataa 64% drop in the past two weeks, Wachter pointed out.

After accounting for home testing, 5 cases per 100,000 “really” is about 25 cases per 100,000, Wachter said in his thread. California is at 12 cases per 100,000 population, while the United States is at 19 cases per 100,000, according to data from The New York Times.

The asymptomatic test positivity rate at UCSF hospitals is now 1.6% — down from 4-6% in early August, according to Wachter, another sign of improvement in the local COVID-19 situation in course of the last month.

That equates to about 1 in 100 people in San Francisco being contagious, or about a 10% chance in a group of 10 people that at least one is contagious, Wachter said.

“So if I’m having dinner today in a restaurant in San Francisco, there’s a 1 in 10 chance that at least one infectious person is nearby,” Wachter wrote. The risk of “mealtime exposure to an infectious person” depends on many factors – ventilation, distance, vaccination status – but Wachter put it at around 10%.

Together, that’s about a 1% chance of getting infected while eating indoors.

That leads to about a 1 in 1,000 chance of getting long COVID from dining indoors and a 1 in 200,000 chance of dying, Wachter said.

What to do with these odds? It depends on each person’s risk status and tolerance, Wachter wrote. Ultimately, he said he shared his reasoning to help others reflect on their situation.

“If you’ve been in cautious mode, like I have been, are those risks now low enough to enjoy indoor dining in SF? For me, they are. Are they low enough to leave the mask off when entering an uncrowded indoor space or having a small group business meeting? For me, yes,” Wachter said.

“For you? Your call. Hope this helps you think,” Wachter said.

Claire Hao is a staff writer for the San Francisco Chronicle. Email: claire.hao@sfchronicle.com, Twitter: clairehao_


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