The Golden Gate Bridge and San Francisco skyline
A view of one of California’s most beloved coastal gems — the Golden Gate Bridge — and the San Francisco skyline from the Golden Gate National Recreation Area. (Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times)
COVID Today

Rise in coronavirus cases has slowed, but San Francisco braces for holiday spike

Coronavirus cases continue to climb in San Francisco, but not as rapidly as last month.

San Francisco’s rise in coronavirus infections and hospitalizations for COVID-19 has slowed, but a new spike may occur in mid-January because of holiday gatherings, the city’s public health director said Tuesday.

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Dr. Grant Colfax, the health director, said at a news conference that the city’s hospitals now have plenty of available beds in their intensive care units, although available ICU bed space throughout the Bay Area has fallen to 5.9% of capacity.

“We remain in a serious and critical position, but our collective actions are making a difference,” Colfax said.

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The rate of increase in infections “seems to be slowing,” Colfax said, but it is “plausible” that the city might “see a sharp increase in the next few weeks.”

Colfax began his remarks by expressing support for residents of Southern California and the Central Valley, regions he said were experiencing “dire” and “catastrophic” pandemic conditions.

He said San Francisco hospitals now have four COVID-19 patients from outside the city and may get more patients from other regions experiencing a dearth of intensive care beds.

The state Department of Public Health is allocating the vaccines to health providers, which then receive the doses directly from the vaccine makers, Colfax said. The vaccines will be distributed according to priorities established by the state.

San Francisco has not yet detected a new, potentially more infectious strain of the virus that has spread rapidly in Britain and has been found in the United States, including Southern California.

Still, Colfax said, he would not be surprised if the strain eventually is discovered in the city or elsewhere in the Bay Area.

The city’s Public Health Department has vaccinated more than 6,000 people so far, mostly front-line health workers at city-run health facilities, including Laguna Honda Hospital, one of the largest skilled-nursing facilities in the nation.

By the end of Tuesday, Colfax said, more than 90% of the residents at Laguna Honda will have received their first dose of the vaccine. Fifteen residents and 34 staff members at Laguna Honda have been diagnosed with COVID-19.

The city has not found itself with any excess of vaccines, Colfax said.

“Right now, demand far outweighs the supply,” he said.

About 80,000 people who live or work in San Francisco will be vaccinated during the first round of distribution, he said.

“Please know,” he added, “we expect that everyone who wants the vaccine will get one eventually.”

Mayor London Breed, who also spoke at the news conference, emphasized that residents should have hope.

“The vaccine is here,” she said. “These are difficult times, but there is light at the end of the tunnel.”

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This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.