As COVID-19 rates continue to climb, on the eve of a three-day Fourth of July weekend city officials and community leaders urged San Franciscans to stay home.
“We could be seeing the early signs of a surge,” said Dr. Grant Colfax, director of the San Francisco Department of Public Health.
The 7-day moving average of new cases per 100,000 people in San Francisco currently stands at 6.1 and hit an all-time high of 6.3 on Friday. But that information is already a week old, based on recent COVID-19 tests. It is likely the current rate is higher than 6.1, but that can’t be confirmed until more lab results come in.
The Health Department has set a goal of having no more than 1.8 new cases per 100,000 people. The rate hasn’t been that low since March 16, the day the shelter-in-place order was announced.
Although the number of available hospital beds in San Francisco looks good, the rate at which COVID-19 patients are being admitted to the hospital is rising sharply. The Health Department has set a target of no more than 10 percent growth over the previous week. As of June 30, the last day we have data for, hospitalizations were up 61 percent from the week before. That includes 22 patients transferred from other counties. Even if you factor those patients out, the city still generated a 41 percent spike on its own.
“That rate of increase means the curve is steep, and we really need to ensure we are doing everything we can to flatten that curve again,” Colfax said. “We saw this in China, we saw this in Italy, we saw this in New York, we’re seeing this now in Florida and Arizona: Once this virus takes off at a high rate, it is very aggressive, and we need to take this pause now and as much as possible stay at home for the Fourth of July.”
“If you have the ability to shelter-in-place this weekend, do that,” said Jon Jacobo, a member of the Latino Task Force. “If you have a need to go out, because there is an essential thing that you have to do, wear a face covering.”
Jacobo pointed out that in the April UCSF Mission Study, more than half of the people who tested positive for COVID-19 did not have symptoms.
“What could be happening is people could have COVID-19 and not understand that they do, and they could be completely fine and not have any symptoms, but give it to someone that they love dearly,” he said. “It is important for all of us to take ownership of this, because it is only with all of us participating that we’ll be able to get out of this.”
“The virus is not equal in impacting communities and neighborhoods,” said Sheryl Davis, executive director of the San Francisco Human Rights Commission. “We have seen the map of where the virus is impacting in greater numbers matches maps that have been used for redlining, [and] matches maps that have been used to map disparities in terms of economic and health issues and challenges. We realize, in some ways, we are battling two diseases, or two issues at this point in time: One is the pandemic, and one in racism. That these two things are very much closely connected.”
Latinx people and Mission District dwellers have been particularly hard hit by the virus. Despite only making up 15 percent of the city’s population, Latinx people represent half half of COVID-19 infections.
“Most recently, we have had concerns about our African American community, and issues and challenges facing folks in Sunnydale in younger populations,” Davis said. “We are really trying to make sure people are heeding the call to stay home, to stay healthy.”
James “Uncle Stank” Spingola, director of the Ella Hill Hutch Community Center in the Fillmore District, urged young people to stay home so they don’t inadvertently contract the virus and bring it home to infect their family.
“Just make sure that you’re taking care of your people, your loved ones, your community,” Spingola said. “The last thing you want to do is sacrifice someone in your family, and the last thing I want to do is go to another funeral.”
“If you do end up going out, wear a face mask. Make sure you have sanitizer with you, think about social distancing at all times, just make it a habit that people don’t get next to you, people keep their distance from you. Make sure that you take it serious,” he added.
But if possible, the first choice should be staying home.
“It’s for us to look out for our community and make sure our communities are safe,” Spingola said. “Please, please, please keep your butts at home.”
Colfax said there was no single cause the Health Department could point to for the recent rise in cases, such as an outbreak at a specific facility or location. Rather, he said, it’s likely what we already know spreads the virus: Asymptomatic carriers and people who choose not to wear face coverings. He pointed to the fact that residents have been out and about more over the past few weeks.
“The more we move about, and the more interaction there is … the more likely the virus is to transmit,” he said. “Especially indoors, and especially if people don’t take the precautions we keep talking about.”
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