San Francisco in coronavirus ‘red zone,’ freezes reopenings

A couple view the San Francisco skyline from a vista point in Sausalito, Calif., in March.
(Eric Risberg / Associated Press)

San Francisco’s director of public health said Wednesday the rate of transmission of the coronavirus continued to climb in the Bay Area and the city would not move forward with reopening.

“Unfortunately we are experiencing a surge in COVID-19 infections that is affecting our community’s health and reopening plans,” Dr. Grant Colfax, the city’s health chief, said during a virtual news conference. “The virus is not only still out there, it is out there more than ever before. It continues to spread locally in our community and throughout the Bay Area region.”

On Monday, Colfax said each person with the disease was infecting, on average, 1.25 others, a ratio that he said had to come down.


On Wednesday, that figure was 1.3. The so-called reproduction rate must come down to one or lower, he said. “If we do not do better,” he said, “we are looking at major problems by late August and September with an average peak of 900 hospitalized patients by early October.”

Hospital capacity in the city was still good this week, Colfax said. Twenty-seven percent of acute beds remained available as well as 28% of intensive care beds. During the last surge, in April, hospitalizations in San Francisco peaked at 94. He said there were 92 COVID-19 patients in San Francisco hospitals on Wednesday. Of those, 76 were residents and 16 were transferred from other places.

Asked about reopening schools, Colfax said the rate of infection must come down before school buildings are opened for classes.

“We will make a decision about whether it is safe to open those physical spaces depending on where we stand with the virus and the surge in our city when the time comes,” he said. The new cases stem from people socializing at parties and barbecues with friends and family, he said, and from essential workers at businesses who are not adhering to precautions.

San Francisco is now in the “red zone” for rising transmissions. The city has 7.7 cases for every 100,000 residents, he said. The goal was to keep that rate at 1.8.

Hospitalizations for coronavirus infection are rising by 33%, Colfax noted: “That is red, and a cause for grave concern.” The goal is to keep hospitalization increases to under 10%.

Testing, though, was in good shape, with the city averaging 2,950 tests a day. Contact tracers were reaching 85% of those infected and 85% of their contacts, he said. He warned that those percentages were likely to fall this week because of delays in getting test results from overwhelmed laboratories.