Good morning, Mission, and welcome to Virus Village, your (somewhat regular) Covid-19 data dump.

No sign yet of an omicron retreat.

In the midst of the biggest, and potentially worst, surge over the past two years, where is the San Francisco Department of Public Health? Anybody seen or heard from DPH lately? Like the Department of Public Works, which doesn’t pick up garbage, or the Department of Building Inspection, which doesn’t inspect or regulate contractors, or the Unified School District, which does (what?) , the Department of Public Health appears to be out to lunch (at the French Laundry?). You would think DPH could at least secure and distribute masks and rapid tests. Note: DPH testing sites, which have been closed, should be open today. As taxpayers, we deserve better, much better, than we’ve gotten so far, especially now.

DPH does provide some information. But if you want to know what’s happening with the virus in SF, you have to turn to UCSF docs and other local experts. Here, UCSF Dr. Bob Wachter provides a snapshot of the situation in the City and especially UCSF hospitals (which along with the related SFGH) care for the majority of City covid patients. Although DPH can’t seem to figure out how many vaxxed and unvaxxed patients in the hospital, UCSF can and Wachter provides useful numbers and interpretation.

Not that we needed it, but another study shows school closings have been devastating for poor children, predominantly racial and ethnic minorities. Most of the media (including local docs/experts) have blamed the teachers’ unions without mentioning the role of government departments like the befuddled SFUSD. It’s not an easy problem, but like everybody else, teachers deserve a safe working conditions and they’ve had to fight to get anything at all. For example, Chicago, in response to teacher demands, shut down the schools altogether. Schools there have reopened, but in this report in the New York Times, there is not one mention of what the teachers wanted. For that you have to go to the Chicago union’s website.

One excuse for doing nothing, which we are hearing more and more, is that the virus has become endemic, and that we have to learn to live (or die) with it. As one outraged doc puts it, “Endemic means that there is a steady state level of virus circulating. This is explosive exponential, epidemic growth, not a stable level of endemic transmission.” There’s plenty that can be and should be done to curtail transmission. Her sentiments are echoed by Zero Covid. If you scroll down, they report that Chinese methods are not as “draconian” as have been hyped.

However, some methods do seem a bit other-worldly as this reporter found out travelling recently to Hong Kong.

It’s taken over a year, but our experts have finally conceded, that yes, N95s and equivalents, unlike homemade cloth masks, actually do work to protect the wearer as well as prevent transmission. Beyond finding these masks, how should they be worn, and for how long?

Scroll down for today’s covid numbers.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control data used for the chart lags behind the data supplied from the San Francisco Department of Public Health. As of Jan. 11, DPH reports 771,618 residents, more than 88 percent of all San Francisco residents have received one dose, and over 81 percent have received two. For residents 5 and older, DPH reports the figures rise above 90 percent and above 85 percent and over 90 percent of those 65 and older have received two doses. SFDPH reports that as of Jan. 11, approximately 418,517 residents (59 percent of all residents) have received a COVID-19 booster dose.

The Vaccine was designed to prevent serious illness, not to prevent infection and as Dr. Wachter notes, it doesn’t. Logically, a booster should provide some protection, but there’s no data that I’ve seen on that subject. And we all know people who have been triple vaxxed, who have become infected. However, the data provided by Dr. Wachter and others do confirm that The Vaccine does help prevent an infection from developing into a serious illness.

For information on where to get vaccinated in and around the Mission, visit our Vaccination Page.

Despite an avalanche of infections, hospitalizations are half of what they were at the peak last winter. With ICU patients essentially flat for the past week, on Jan. 8, DPH reports there were 175 covid hospitalizations, or about 20 hospitalizations per 100,000 residents (based on an 874,000 population). The California Department of Public Health currently reports 211 covid patients in SF hospitals with 38 in ICU.

The latest report from the federal Department of Health and Human Services shows Zuckerberg San Francisco General Hospital with 25 covid patients and 6 ICU beds available, while across the Mission, CPMC had 15 covid patients and 4 ICU beds available. Of 112 reported covid patients, 65 were at either SFGH or UCSF, with at least 76 ICU beds available among reporting hospitals (which does not include the Veterans Administration). The California DPH currently reports 71 ICU beds available in San Francisco.

Note: DPH uses dated population figures for neighborhoods. Between Nov. 8 and Jan. 7, DPH recorded 1771 infections among Mission residents or 301 infections per 10,000 residents. The high number (highest in the City) may be in part due to continuous testing at 24th Street (thanks to LTF and UCSF). Sunset/Parkside,Bayview Hunters Point, Excelsior and West of Twin Peaks also report over 1000 infections. Bayview Hunters Point now has the highest rate, with 421 infections per 10,000 residents. Of 38 neighborhoods, 10 have rates over 300 per 10,000 residents. Chinatown has the lowest rate, and Lakeshore, the only SF neighborhood with less than 50 percent of its residents vaccinated has the second lowest rate.

On Jan. 4, the 7-day average of daily new infections recorded in the City jumped again to 1525 or approximately 174.3 new infections per day per 100,000 residents (based on an 874,000 population). The 7-day average infection rate among vaccinated residents was 160.8 per 100,000 vaccinated residents and for unvaccinated residents, 299.3 per 100,000 unvaccinated residents. Remember, there are about 9 times as many vaccinated as unvaccinated SF residents. Note: Don’t get too excited about the indicated dropoff at the end. It’s a glitch we are working on.

DPH has revised its December numbers. It now reports 5,685 infections among White SF residents, 37.8 percent of the total, Latinxs, 2,907 infections, 19.3 percent, Asians 3,428 infections, 22,8 percent, Blacks 851 infections, 5.7 percent, Multi-racials 243 infections, 1.6 percent, Pacific Islanders 175 infections, 1.2 percent, and Native Americans had 51 infections, .3 percent of December totals.

The number of tests in SF has reached an all-time high as has the average 7-day City positivity rate. This doesn’t count the number of rapid tests among those who found them. Note that waiting times at 24th and Capp can last as long as 3 hours, although there is a fast track. DPH said this morning it demands (!!) private providers prove fast covid tests, or “face fines”. I just tried to schedule a test with Kaiser and could not even get to the appointments page on their website. If I do manage to get appointment, I’m told the results will be made available within (usually) 48 hours, which makes testing pretty much useless. No doubt Kaiser trembles in fear of “fines” from DPH.

Another December covid-related death has been added to the total.

Covid R Estimation lowered its San Francisco R Number to 1.86 and raised its California R Number to 1.97. The ensemble lowered its average for the  San Francisco R Number to a preposterous 1.11 (heavily influenced by one model which, consistently very low, now estimates SF at .91, while most other models are below 1.45 ) and posting an average California R Number of 1.44.

With respect to infections, if I am correctly reading this chart (I’m sure you will tell me if I’m wrong so thanks in advance.) it appears, in additon to Dr Wachter’s comments, highly vaccinated SF is not comparing very favorably to other less vaccinated cities in the U.S. This may reflect relative testing, but according to the Washington Post, San Francisco has a daily average of 231.1 infections per 100,000 residents, while Los Angeles has 380.4, Fresno 154.8, Las Vegas 184.4, Phoenix, 242.5, Lincoln Nebraska, 154.1, Dallas 179.2, Atlanta 187.6, Tampa 229.1, Cincinnati 219.2, Traverse City, MI 114.4, Detroit 203.1, Baltimore 190, Boston 421.1, and New York City has a daily average of 424.3. If I am reading the data wrong, I will let you know.

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Mark Rabine has lived in the Mission for over 40 years. "What a long strange trip it's been." He has maintained our Covid tracker through most of the pandemic, taking some breaks with his search for the Mission's best fried-chicken sandwich and now its best noodles. When the Warriors make the playoffs, he writes up his take on the games.

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  1. Using a grain of salt the size of Coit Tower, perhaps there is a chance of good news

    The sfgov dataset says it is lagging by 5 days, and only shows data up until the 8th

    As of the 13th, using the NYTimes San Francisco dataset (which often gets revised as data for recent days comes in late), SF and many Bay Area counties are showing a peak occurring over the last weekend with two consecutive days dropping. They don’t show that happening in all Bay Area counties nor in all California counties

    We could be in for a three-peat tonight!

    1. alas, the results at 11pm pst time (nytimes time 2am) is that we hit a high (excluding post weekend data drops mondays) of 500 cases / 100k

  2. Rates normalized to population size are a decent way to compare, but in the Washington Post data they are displayed for counties, not cities/metro areas as you’re suggesting Mark. Just casually looking at some other metro areas, it looks like Bay Area counties’ per-100k rates is similar to the rates in DC-area counties. The city of Chicago, Cook County, and the Chicago metro are different “geographies” with different population totals in Census data. I don’t know what is a fair comparison for SF though — it’s best to compare it to counties that are part of a larger metro area with comparable density. Maybe Boston? I don’t think it’s at all fair to compare SF with Traverse City.

    Ernst is right, density seems to be playing a big role in a way that was perhaps less salient in earlier surges. To me this is exacerbated by a few big trends:
    a) In earlier surges, SF was on the leading edge of shelter-in-place and other local health orders to mitigate spread; now City Hall is clearly unwilling to consider much of anything that limits commerce. (Not unique to SF)
    b) In earlier surges, before wide availability of vaccine, the population was less pandemic-fatigued and more afraid of what would happen if they caught the virus (aka pre-vaccine). After the national bait-and-switch about what the vaccine could achieve (limiting hospitalization/death vs curbing transmission), it is a tough sell to ask people to trust public health leadership at any level. Even people who were very trusting up until and through Delta are shrugging and telling themselves that infection is inevitable… (Also not unique to SF)
    c) because there’s not adequate government support at any level to allow for people to meet their family’s needs without exposing themselves to a highly transmissible variant. It used to take closer contact/longer contact to transmit earlier versions of the virus. But how are people (anyone not cloistered in a mansion or an affluent white-collar household) supposed to feed themselves and pay the rent without being infected? (Definitely not unique to SF)

    I wonder what kind of shutdowns, resources, and direct aid would be required to have stopped or prevented such a steep rise in cases.

  3. DPH should SEND INSPECTORS out to every SF school to evaluate whether best COVID abatement practices are in place. Distance learning was a disaster: teachers DO want schools to stay open. The only way to do that is to make sure they are as safe as possible.

    1. Dare I say the independent schools have had DPH practically on speed dial since the very beginning?

      No doubt, this has been two very different pandemics, and our city has had a direct hand at exacerbating the disparities.

  4. Thanks for the great work on this dashboard. I wonder if the rates/100,000 can be correlated with the density of cities – denser places like SF an NY allow for a faster spread.