reopening can't happen while this is the trend
Screenshot of Dr. Colfax's presentation showing the cumulative deaths and positive cases in the city

San Francisco’s reopening is on pause indefinitely as COVID-19 cases climb

Of the nearly 4,600 diagnosed cases in San Francisco, 1,000 were from the last two weeks alone, SF Health Department Director Dr. Grant Colfax said this morning in a live stream session with Mayor London Breed.

The death rate has leveled off and the current tally is at 50.

“But unfortunately, this could change at any moment,” said Colfax. “Especially if our health care systems get overwhelmed and people are not able to get the clinical, medical attention that they need.”

That possibility has stopped the city’s reopening indefinitely, the officials said. And, it was clear there would be no resuming until they saw better numbers on cases, hospitalizations and transmission rates. 

Colfax said hospitalizations have increased recently and the rate of positive cases per 100,000 people has increased to about 7.8 as of July 11. 

“This indicates that the virus is spreading throughout the city,” said Colfax. 

The reproductive number of the virus – how fast the virus is transmitting through the population – has grown as well. In May it had dropped to about 0.85, which meant that for every person infected, less than one more new person would be infected. “If that had stayed, the virus would have basically burned out in the city,” said Colfax.

But in early June, soon after some level of reopening began, that number started to increase. And as of July 4, the reproductive rate of the virus in the city was estimated at 1.25 according to researchers at UC Berkeley. That number could dramatically increase the number of hospitalizations to 830. If it stays that high, deaths could go to 890 or more by the end of 2020.

Cutting the rate by half would decrease the hospitalization and death projections to hundreds less, Colfax said. 

Along with pausing the reopening, Colfax stressed the importance of sticking to social distancing, not interacting with people outside of one’s immediate household, wearing masks and paying attention to hygiene. Gatherings of large groups, particularly in enclosed spaces, should be avoided.

While testing has expanded, it’s clear that more is needed, he said. 

In the last week, the number of tests being conducted has increased from the original goal of 1,800 a day to 2,600 a day, said Colfax. On average, three percent of those being tested are positive. 

The high disparity of Latinx people testing positive continues to be a concern. Of those testing positive in the last five weeks, almost half were Latinx. 

Breed asked what the Department of Public Health was doing to address this inequity.

Colfax said that they have been working with the Latino Task Force on COVID-19 on how to address these unique challenges to increase testing and to ensure that when people do test positive they have access to financial and other support. 

Breed pointed out that besides pop-up testing sites, most are concentrated in the center of the city. Colfax said that the Department of Public Health has been working on expanding testing sites in Sunnydale, Potrero Hill, and just started testing at a new site in the Mission District.

That popup opened last Thursday, expecting 100 people and ended up testing 200. “We’ve got to take the testing to where people are,” said Breed. 

Colfax said the testing of a new vaccine will start in August at the Department of Public Health.

But the development could take a long time, and will most likely not be widely available for another 12 to 18 months.

Until then, and to prevent another surge in cases, people and businesses will have to continue on with shelter-in-place in order to save lives, said Colfax.

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12 Comments

  1. Sincee they forced everyone to move their cars to avoid tickets, infection has hit alarming levels

    At least in the Latino neighborhood they should out a hold on taxing the people thru parking tickets

    1. Why does DPH not highlight that only 3 percent of those tested are positive? Why is there no indicator for percent positive in the dashboard? If testing increases, of course cases will increase as well, and if it has remained at a steady 3 percent it seems much less dire. Positive cases alone seem like poor evidence to base decisions on reopening, if not tied to percent positive cases.

      1. https://data.sfgov.org/stories/s/d96w-cdge

        Click on “All time” button and hover on green line to see % positive tests vs date. Note on Jun 10, the % positive was 1%. On Jul 4, the % positive was 5%. Sure if you take the average from Jun 10 to Jul 4, you’d get 3%. But that misses that % positive has increased around 5 times from Jun 10 to Jul 4.

        Note the bars showing number of tests have roughly remained steady over the period, not increasing, so the reason for increasing higher case counts since re-opening does not appear to be due to increased testing, but increased % positive tests. This generally indicates increasing infection rate.

        Increased infection rate since re-opening is expected due to more social contact. Coronavirus is around and is not going away any time soon even if we cut back on re-opening, and we need businesses open so we can work and pay rent and bills. It does not have to be one or the other. We can have some amount of both relative safety from getting infected and still being able to work and shop and to go out if more people keep in mind that the pandemic is still here with us and follow DPH guidelines are recommendations. We are in this together, and together we can keep the virus down and avoid the huge surge of cases seen in other parts of our country that lead to dialing back on re-opening and worse shutting down again.

        Segue – note that total cases in SF in 14 day period ending 7 days ago was 902. That works out to 102 cases per 100,000 population which is the CDPH criteria for entry to the watch list (sounds Orwellian that) https://www.cdph.ca.gov/Programs/CID/DCDC/Pages/COVID-19/COVID19CountyDataTable.aspx

        All Bay Area counties except SF and San Mateo are on the watch list. SF could be added in next few days as the number of cases in past 7 days has not shown a significant decline that would take our total cases for 14 day period back under 100 cases per 100,000 population.

        Yeah I also have shelter in place fatigue and having to wear mask when going out is a pain but agree with other comment on increasing enforcement of following DPH regulations in public places. I do appreciate that keeping the cases down and keeping businesses open is incredibly difficult to manage as it only takes a few “superspreader” incidents such as indoor parties for a crowd of unmasked people to ruin things for everyone. I nod or wave when I pass other people wearing masks and they generally nod and wave back. It is like an encouraging message that yeah we get it and we are in this together and it helps with the pain of wearing the mask. Maybe if more of us did that we can encourage others who share in our difficult times.

        1. Great post, 941XX! Worth noting that July 4, when the positivity rate was highest, also had an unusually low number of tests reported – this was at the time when the CDPH requested labs to focus on the most likely positive cases (say, people in hospital, symptomatic or known contacts of positive cases) to help reduce a backlog, so I suspect there was a slight positivity spike as a result. https://www.cdph.ca.gov/Programs/OPA/Pages/NR20-149.aspx

    2. So I noticed it’s the same group of ppl not wearing masks or do so incorrectly, either leaving their nostril exposed. I’m not going to get into specificsl b/c I don’t want to be accused of being racist. I catch the bus everyday & it’s the same ol group. The bus driver don’t care & don’t say anything. I noticed them look the other way. I had confronted the drivers on many occasions & I get the same response: “it’s not my job”. I am not surprised the covid numbers are increasing. Bet most of covid is spread in the Muni buses!!!!!

    1. MAGAt trolls = don’t waste your time. It’s clear they can’t comprehend the article assuming they even read it. R rate is what they are looking at.

  2. Considering the backyard parties, people out with fireworks, multiple families ignoring the closed signs in playgrounds, no wonder we have the highest rate in the Mission. So much for shared responsibility and love for community, respect for the thousands of essential workers who are our neighbors and friends. A little enforcement would go a long way. Asking people to “do the right thing” clearly isn’t working.

    1. Enforcement, No
      Don’t call the police.

      If you can do it well, tell the people yourself, But before you do,
      Check your inner self ans is if might also contain implicit racial bias

  3. People should not be having get togethers, even backyard get togethers. In my neighborhood friends are visiting friends indoors, and some are hosting parties. It’s disappointing.

    It’s almost impossible for me to stay 6+ feet away from other people when taking a walk, hiking on the trails, or grocery shopping, but at least I try.

    I wear a face covering at all times outside the home, but a lot of people don’t. On walks, some people don’t pull up their face covering until they see me nearby. On trails in Golden Gate Park and Land’s End as well as regular sidewalks, a surprising amount of people are not wearing face coverings at all

    We also need to be reminded that a face covering doesn’t make us invincible and doesn’t totally stop your friend from spreading Covid-19 to you. Prolonged periods of exposure, like meeting up with your friend for an hour to chat with them one foot apart, can be dangerous.

    Please wear well-fitted face coverings, stay 6+ feet away from each other, AND don’t visit with people outside your own household.

    A lot of people in the city have taken very loose interpretations of what “social distancing” means. It’s better to hold off on all get-togethers for now.

  4. Why is icu and/or ventilator capacity never referenced. Per Definitive Healthcare tracker, SF has ~90% available capacity…

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