Screenshot of a graph from city of San Francisco outlines two scenarios based on Covid-19 projections from the city of San Francisco, UCSF and UC Berkeley. According to this data, if transmission does not decrease, there could be 517 additional deaths in San Francisco by February 2021.

San Francisco Covid-19 cases are climbing at an unprecedented rate, and the city’s ICU beds could dip below 15 percent as soon as this week, Dr. Grant Colfax, the Public Health Department director, said at a news conference on Wednesday. 

He described two visions for the future. In one, the city maintains steady hospital bed capacity and lives could be saved. In the other, the ICU beds are overwhelmed and the death rate could climb. 

In order to avoid a bleak future, San Franciscans must only attend socially-distanced outdoor gatherings and not give into the temptations of gathering for the holidays with people outside their household.

“With the current capacity of our ICU beds, we expect those to run out as soon as” December 27th — in just 17 days,” Colfax said. “That’s based on the numbers we have today. If we see those hospitalization numbers continue to go up, we may even run out of ICU beds earlier than that.”

“To be blunt,” he added, “we have one chance to turn this serious surge around, and that chance is right now. But our window is narrowing and closing fast.” 

He called it “by far the worst surge to date.” 

To make his point clear, Colfax went into the specifics. The weekly average of Covid-positive hospitalizations is rising 38 percent — far above San Francisco’s target rate.  There are an average of 163 new cases per day, meaning approximately 19 per 100,000 residents are getting sick. That is well above San Francisco’s goal of 1.8 cases per 100,000 residents. 

Currently the reproductive rate is at 1.5, meaning every person who has Covid-19 goes on to infect 1.5 new people. If this continues, Dr. Grant Colfax expects 1,410 hospitalizations by Feb. 10, 2021. So far, 164 people have died in San Francisco from Covid-19. Cofax said that if people do not stay at home, follow safe social-distancing, and wear masks, that number could surpass 500 by February 2021. 

Despite the gloom, there was one glimmer of hope, Colfax said.  He confirmed that 12,000 doses of Covid-19 vaccine are expected to be distributed in San Francisco by Dec. 15. 

Those doses will be distributed to medical workers and nursing home residents first. He expects wider vaccine distribution to take place next “spring or summer.”. 

“The vaccine is on the way, but it is not going to get us out of this current surge,” Colfax warned. 

“We just need to dig a little deeper and do the right thing to turn this surge around.” 

San Francisco’s stay-at-home order is being enforced through Jan. 4, 2021, amid a surge of new cases and decreasing numbers of ICU beds, though it could be extended if the surge continues to rage.

Clara-Sophia Daly

Clara-Sophia Daly is a multimedia storyteller and reporter who has worked both in print and audio. A graduate of Skidmore College where she studied International Affairs and Media/Film studies, she enjoys...

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  1. both of these scenarios point to a lock down that is longer then 4 weeks in duration. what’s the real story here?

  2. Remember this summer when Colfax said that surge was so bad that we needed a make-shift hospital in the Presidio? Whatever happened to that? If he thinks it’s even more dire now, why aren’t they making plans to increase hospital capacity?

  3. Didn’t they say this in the summer? What happened? Outdoor dining was still allowed lol. does anyone have the ICU percentage during a normal/severe flu season?

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