East Bay Getting to Zero
SARS-CoV-2 scanning electron microscope image from NIAID

This page includes East Bay COVID viral levels, testing, vaccine, masking, prevention, treatment and other resources, updated monthly. Please click here to share feedback.

East Bay COVID updates

September 2023

There are still free COVID vaccines, tests and treatment in the East Bay, available to everyone in California regardless of immigration and insurance status and continuing after the end of the public health emergency.

Virus levels:

As of September 20, 2023:

  • East Bay EBMUD wastewater data shows COVID viral concentrations at high transmission risk levels since late July. Levels increased in mid-September after a brief drop at the beginning of the month. The top three variants sequenced in the Bay Area during the summer surge have been XBB1.5, EG.5 and XBB1.16. Predictions are for East Bay COVID levels to be stable into September.
  • COVID hospitalizations in the East Bay increased in August and are predicted to be stable into September.

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  • The top three variants sequenced in the Bay Area during the summer surge have been XBB1.5, EG.5 and XBB1.16.
  • The XBB.1.16 variant is increasing in proportion. As of September 20, 2023, Bay Area variant data shows that the XBB.1.16 variant is increasing in proportion (~23% of variants), while the EG.5 and XBB.1.5 variants have been decreasing. Boosters, paxlovid, remdesivir and molnupiravir treatment are still effective against severe disease from the newer variants.
  • Early lab data on the highly mutated BA.2.86 (“Pirola”) variant has found it to be less infectious than XBB and while it escapes immunity, it is less than initially feared. This early data suggests that BA.2.86 may cause a wave but not likely a tsunami, as with the emergence of the original Omicron.
  • Read more about East Bay variants here.


  • The 2023-2024 updated Covid vaccines have been approved and recommended by the FDA and CDC for everyone ages 6 months and up, at least 2 months after the previous vaccine dose. Moderna and Pfizer mRNA vaccines have been approved; the Novavax vaccines is still pending approval. The updated vaccines are monovalent ones targeting the XBB1.5 variant, and data shows good cross-immunity to newer circulating variants, such as EG.5 and BA.2.86.
  • Supply is slowly coming in to the East Bay, with some pharmacies expecting to receive vaccines by the end of September. Some medical providers, such as Kaiser, may not have availability till October. It might be best to call ahead of time to make sure they have what you want in stock. 
  • Updated vaccine immunity data shows that it provides a significant increase in antibody response to the currently circulating variants.
  • New data also shows increasing evidence that vaccinations reduce the risk of long Covid symptoms in adults and children.   
  • If you are seen at a primary care clinic, check with them first for the updated vaccine. They are most likely to provide the vaccine with the fewest insurance issues. Unlike before, insurance coverage will be checked before Covid vaccines are given at pharmacies. Coverage at specific pharmacies depends on their insurance contracts.
  • If you don’t have insurance or your insurance doesn’t cover the complete Covid vaccine cost: CVS and Walgreens are required by the national Bridge Program to cover Covid vaccines at no cost to you.
  • People without insurance or papers can also get a free updated vaccine at these public/county vaccine sites:   
    • In Alameda County, vaccines are available for free for uninsured people at the following sites, with schedules and vaccine availability updated on this calendar or call 510-268-2101 for more info.
      • Family Justice Center: located at 470 27th St. (at Telegraph) in Oakland, Wednesdays 1-3:30 pm and Saturdays 10-2pm. It’s best to call 510-267-3230 to make an appointment. They also serve walk-ins, but the client might end up waiting for a while if they have scheduled appointments for that day.
      • Wellness clinic at Laney College Flea Market: located at 510 Fallon St, Oakland, CA 94607, Sunday mornings starting at 9 am. This collaborative effort with Umoja Health, BayPLS and ACPHD will offer updated vaccines for the uninsured there once it becomes available. 
    • In Contra Costa County, visit Contra Costa Health vaccine location or call 800-495-8885.

  • The CDC has updated their vaccine guidelines:
    • Everyone ages 6+ should get at least one updated vaccine dose (Pfizer or Moderna) to be considered up to date.
    • People ages 65+ may get a 2nd updated booster dose at least 4 months after the first one.
    • People who are moderately or severely immunocompromised may get additional updated doses at least 2 months after the previous one.
  • Get an updated vaccine at local pharmacies, your medical provider, MyTurn.ca.gov, Vaccines.gov, or county sites.


  • California isolation and quarantine guidelines were updated in August 2023:
    • If you test positive for Covid, isolate for at least 5 days and wear a mask for 10 days.
      • Click for the California COVID-19 Personalized Testing and Isolation Calculator.
      • Talk to your provider about getting treatment or get a free virtual Covid visit here (1 (888) 897-1244).
      • Wear a mask around others for 10 full days after start of symptoms. If you had no symptoms, wear a mask for 10 full days after your positive test. You may remove your mask sooner than Day 10 if you have two negative tests in a row, at least one day apart.
      • You may leave isolation after 5 days if symptoms are gone or improving and have had no fevers for 24 hours without the use of fever-reducing medications.
    • Click here to download the Alameda County isolation PDF. Click here to read more isolation details from Alameda County.
    • If you were exposed and have no symptoms, test immediately and 3-5 days after your last exposure. Wear a mask for 10 days, even at home around others.
  • Ventilation: The CDC released new indoor building ventilation standards in May 2023. They recommend aiming for at least 5 air exchanges per hour and using MERV-13 or better filters to reduce transmission of respiratory infections.
  • Masks: New mask requirement for workers in high risk health settings, November 1, 2023 through April 30, 2024: Staff and other workers in specified health facilities (General Acute Care Hospitals, Long Term Acute Care Hospitals, Psychiatric Hospitals, Skilled Nursing Facilities, Dialysis Centers, and Infusion Centers) in Alameda County and Contra Costa County are required to wear high-quality, well-fitting masks in patient care areas. Sonoma and San Mateo counties will have the same requirement. San Francisco already has a year-round masking requirement for health care workers. Other individual facilities may still choose to make masks required.


  • If you have health insurance in California, you can still get 8 free COVID home tests until November 11, 2023. California insurance companies are also required to cover COVID-related costs through any licensed provider without copays, cost-sharing or prior authorizations until November 11, 2023 (a 6 month extension from the federal end thanks to CA Senate Bill 1473). After November 11, 2023, California insurance companies will still be required to cover in-network COVID-related costs. Click for more info about the end of the public health emergency for California residents.
    • Contra Costa residents can get 4 additional free at-home COVID test kits per household by filling out this online form or by calling 833-829-2626.
    • For people with Medi-Cal, Medicare or private insurance: click here for instructions on how to get free tests through your insurance.
    • For in-person tests, contact your primary care clinic or find a testing site in California here.
  • Are expired COVID home tests still useful? If you still get a clear “control” line, the test is likely to still be effective.
  • COVID test-and-treat: Paxlovid is still free and widely available! Community members at risk can get treatment at the same location and on the same day that you test positive and regardless of insurance or immigration status. Please encourage anyone who tests positive to contact their provider or a free test-and-treat center ASAP, as they may be able to get treatment.
  • Free COVID clinical consults for CA clinicians: California health care providers can now call (866) 268-4322 (COVID-CA) to receive free and confidential consultation on COVID-19 testing and treatment from the UCSF National Clinician Consultation Center.
  • What are current COVID treatment options?
    • Paxlovid, remdesivir and molnupiravir remain effective against the newer variants.
    • Viral rebound is common for both treated and untreated people with COVID-19. There is no evidence of resistance to Paxlovid. Treatment still helps reduce viral load and severity. Just make sure to re-isolate. 
    • Paxlovid expiration dates have been extended to 24 months by the FDA. Check updated expiration dates here.
  • How can we prevent long COVID? Aside from wearing masks and preventing infection, the latest data suggests that you can reduce the risk of long COVID if you get infected with:
    • Vaccination with at least 2 doses was associated with a 43% reduction of long COVID in a large systematic review of 41 studies.
    • Paxlovid treatment was found to reduce the risk of long COVID by 26% in a large VA study
    • Metformin (a safe and inexpensive medication usually used for diabetes) taken for 2 weeks during acute COVID infection was found to reduce healthcare utilization for severe COVID and the development of long COVID symptoms by 42% in a randomized control trial.
    • Ensitrelvir (a protease inhibitor like Paxlovid) taken once a day for 5 days was compared to placebo in a randomized control trial in people at lower risk (mostly ages 12-69, vaccinated, no medical risk factors for severe disease), and was found to reduce long Covid symptoms by 26-45%, shorten symptoms by a day and reduce time to first negative test. This study was also presented at CROI 2023. Ensitrelvir is already approved for COVID treatment in Japan.
    • A “healthy lifestyle” (BMI 18-25, never smoking, exercise, moderate alcohol intake, high quality diet, sleeping 7-9 hours per day) was found in the Nurses’ Health Study II cohort (all women, 97% white) to be associated with a lower risk of long COVID. Participants with 5-6 healthy lifestyle factors had 49% lower risk of long COVID.

The end of COVID emergencies:

Free Covid vaccines, testing and treatment will still be covered by insurance and available at pharmacies and community partners for uninsured people after the federal public health emergency ends on May 11 under CA law, the national PREP Act and new Bridge Access Program.   

  • In April 2023, the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) announced that some of the PREP Act protections for Covid vaccines and treatment distributed by the US through pharmacies and community partners will continue, including pharmacist-administered free vaccines and treatments and the national Covid test-to-treat program. The CA Covid test-to-treat program through Sesame care is also still available.
  •  DHHS also announced that they will partner with pharmacies to provide Covid vaccines and treatments such as Paxlovid free-of-charge to people without insurance coverage in the Bridge Access Program to be launched this fall.
  • People with insurance coverage in California will be protected from out-of-pocket charges for Covid testing, vaccines and treatment from any licensed provider until November 11, 2023. After that, California insurance companies will still be required to cover these costs in-network without out-of-pocket charges. Click for more info about the end of the public health emergency for California residents.

California’s COVID state of emergency ended on February 28, 2023. The end of the state emergency has led to the end of extra pandemic-era CalFresh benefits and the closure of some COVID testing and treatment sites. It may also impact hospitals’ ability to address staffing and space shortages as well as some COVID-related paid medical leave policies. Click for more info about the end of the public health emergency for California residents.

The end of the federal emergency on May 11, 2023 will result in:

  • The end of continuous Medi-Cal coverage. Medi-Cal recipients will have to manually renew and prove eligibility again.
  • The end of national requirements for insurance to cover COVID-related costs. A CA law (CA Senate Bill 1473) extends this requirement for 6 more months to November 11, 2023, so insurance coverage of home test kits and COVID-related health care costs in California will extend till then.
  • The end of requirements for insurance to cover all telehealth services; coverage will vary by state.

Click to read more about: the end of the California state emergency and the end of the federal emergency.

Latest COVID resources

Click here for more East Bay COVID guidance and resources on how to protect ourselves and our communities.