SF Case Counts Return to Pre-Spike Levels

San Francisco’s low COVID-19 numbers stand out among major cities, but the city needs to stay vigilant.

San Francisco, which was seen as a global leader for its proactive approach to the pandemic back in March, has once again wrestled COVID-19 under control. But with new case counts across the U.S. and in many other countries trending upward, the city’s ability to keep things that way is an open question.

After steadily falling for the past month, San Francisco’s rolling seven day average sunk to just 29 cases per day on October 10, according to the latest data publicly available. That’s down from a high of an average of 130 cases per day in late July. The latest new case counts are the lowest since mid-June, and close to the city’s all-time low point since the beginning of the pandemic. 

San Francisco’s daily case counts, based on Department of Public Health data (Screenshot: DataSF)

The city has continued to depress new case counts even as large parts of its economy and culture reopen, including indoor dining and worship, museums, some schools, and personal services like salons, barbershops, and gyms — all at limited capacity. However, as the city’s previous spike demonstrated, reopening is a tenuous balancing act, creating new opportunities for viral transmission. City leaders have made clear they will not hesitate to roll back reopening if cases again begin to rapidly rise.

San Francisco’s current per capita transmission rate of 3.0 new daily cases per 100,000 people set it apart from other major cities, according to the latest data from the New York Times. Cook County, Illinois, which encompasses Chicago, is seeing an average of 18 daily new cases per 100,000 people, Los Angeles County is at 11, Harris County, home of Houston, is at 9.8, Washington, D.C. is at 9.6 and New York City is at 6.6. 

San Francisco’s COVID-19 deaths are also an outlier. The city’s 123 deaths from the virus give the city a death rate of about one in 7,000. LA County, Harris County, and Washington, D.C. all have death rates in the one in 1,000 range. Cook County and New York City are in the hundreds. 

Despite the city’s relative success with the virus, its impact has been disproportionately felt by Latinos, who make up about half of the city’s cases, but just 15 percent of the total population. Likewise, low-income neighborhoods like Bayview, the Mission, the Tenderloin, and Excelsior continue to report a disproportionate number of new cases. 

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