UCSF Dr. Carina Marquez, Susana Rojas, Dr. Jonathan Fuchs with DPH. Photo by Mike Kai Chen

Your coworker is out sick. Your favorite restaurant just closed after reporting an outbreak. Even that friend who survived each Covid-19 surge sans infection has suddenly tested positive.

You’re not crazy, according to Dr. Carina Marquez, a UCSF associate professor of medicine and infectious diseases. “There’s a surge in San Francisco,” she confidently told the Latino Task Force during a meeting Monday. 

Though mask rules have relaxed in the Bay Area, “this is really the time” to start putting them back on, Marquez said. Most effective: KF94s, KN95s, and N95s.

At present, San Francisco is reporting a 9.2 percent positivity rate and 372 new cases during the seven-day average. The highest citywide rate in the pandemic has been 2,377 new cases for a seven-day average during January, 2022, when omicron swarmed the city and post-holiday travelers returned and began testing again. 

That 9.2 percent is likely an undercount, as the reliance on at-home tests rise in popularity and are not reported to public health departments who create Covid-19 data charts. The highest new case rates over the past two months have been located in Chinatown and Visitacion Valley.

The positivity rate is even higher at the local Unidos en Salud testing site, at 24th and Capp streets: A staggering 19 percent. This is more than double what it was the first week of April, when it was 8 percent. 

The BA.2 omicron variant, the subvariant of the omicron variant, is more contagious than its predecessor, and the dominating coronavirus strain in San Francisco and the nation. In mid-April, BA.2 omicron showed up in roughly 30 percent of the positive test samples at Unidos, but, by month’s end, was the strain of 100 percent of positive samples.

This shows “the virus is changing” and “evolving quite rapidly,” Marquez said. 

Variants BA.3 and BA.4, also subvariants of omicron, are hitting South Africa. It’s too early to tell what effects those variants have on hospitalizations. 

Fortunately, the way to fend off disease remains the same. Those 50 and older qualify for a second booster or fourth vaccine, and uninsured individuals who qualify can get their shot through Zuckerberg San Francisco General Hospital. 

Those who get vaccinated have 10 times less risk of death from Covid-19 than those who are unvaccinated. San Francisco data shows that the seven-day average for unvaccinated residents is 82 cases, but 40 cases for vaccinated residents. At present, 84 percent of San Franciscans have completed their entire vaccine series. 

Minimizing times indoors and increasing indoor ventilation — where new, fresh air can come in and stale air gets pushed out — is also key. So is masking.

It’s also time to increase low-barrier access to community vaccines and treatment like oral Paxlovid pills, Marquez said. There are more non-Latinx residents than Latinx who use monoclonal antibody therapies, or treatment that can reduce the effects of Covid-19 infection. 

Education can help narrow these inequities. “We don’t want these disparities to happen,” Marquez said. 


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REPORTER. Annika Hom is our inequality reporter through our partnership with Report for America. Annika was born and raised in the Bay Area. She previously interned at SF Weekly and the Boston Globe where she focused on local news and immigration. She is a proud Chinese and Filipina American. She has a twin brother that (contrary to soap opera tropes) is not evil.

Follow her on Twitter at @AnnikaHom.

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    1. ALSO: this piece quoting someone from UCSF shows how much that institution needs to get their shit together. Two of their docs – Peter Chin-Hong and Monica Gandhi – have been two of the loudest “Don’t wear masks/Get back to normal!” vultures out there. A lot the anti-masker bullshit out there has quoted the two of them, who keep saying “everything’s fine”… then a new surge pops up within weeks.

      They need their credential revoked for that sort of public malpractice.

  1. Im 55. Not vaccinated. Had Omicron. Only issue was stomach issues for 36 hours and my left ear plugged up for 10 days. Its a big nothing-burger.

    1. @ Luigi you don’t know how severe it will be until you get it. That’s an issue. Long Covid can happen even for mild cases.

      Good luck to you.

  2. For anyone who is “over” the pandemic,

    I would love to be over it as well, and I’m not, because almost all the news on long COVID is bad news.

    Go read Bob Wachter’s account of his spouse’s case. 10 days in and still way worse than “a cold” with the best care available and after doing Paxlovid.

    Avoiding dying on a respirator is goal one.

    Avoiding strokes, permanent cognitive impairment, permanent cardiovascular impairment, are also goals.

    1. Oh, God, and the way he was mocking her on Twitter for being “overly cautious” before she came down with Covid… like that photo he took of her on the plane… unreal. This coming from UCSF’s head of the school of medicine. Unbelievable and so depressing.

  3. But wearing masks, are being overly paranoid, is what is bringing the case count higher than other places. Hello, everyone should understand this feedback loop by now.

  4. “The 9.2 percent is likely an undercount, as the reliance on at-home tests rise in popularity and are not reported to public health departments who create Covid-19 data charts.”

    This is an assumption that is not based in fact. The reliance on home tests could skew this rate higher as people take PCRs to confirm their positive tests and don’t take PCR tests if negative.

  5. I’ll start worrying the when the hospitals start getting overwhelmed. This article only mentions case counts.

    1. Uh, think again. Family member got Omicron from a 1 day cross country flight(s). VERY, VERY SICK. On the experimental antiviral. Good luck. I’m freaking and all I did was touch a cat crate handle. Either allergies or I’ve got it. Pharmacy will not answer the phone–overwhelmed with calls about COVID and vaccines. Surge in the antiviral. Wake up.

      1. PAXLOVID is investigational because it is still being studied. There is limited information about the safety and effectiveness of using PAXLOVID to treat people with mild-to-moderate COVID‑19. *Note correction in the antiviral Rx.