For the first time on Monday, San Francisco's Department of Public Health released some extra data on the current hospitalized population of coronavirus cases in the city — something that other Bay Area counties have been doing for weeks.
Dr. Grant Colfax, the city's director of public health, gave a press conference Monday alongside Mayor London Breed which, in part, served to announced that new makeshift shelter at Moscone Center West will not be used for all homeless individuals, but will be used for those who are emerging from quarantine for COVID-19 and are recovering, and those who test negative for COVID-19. "This will allow us to free up hotel rooms... when people no longer need them," Breed said. "Moscone West can free up a space in a hotel when [an individual] no longer needs one." She further explained that the 390-person capacity would be reduced, and "a number of adjustments will be made" to allow social distance in eating and smoking areas as well.
Breed further explained that the shuttered CPMC California campus was being reopened in order to create more hospital space in anticipation of a surge in serious cases in the city.
Colfax took the podium and explained that out of SF's current 583 confirmed cases, 83 are now in hospitals around the city (14 percent), and of those, "nearly half" are in intensive care units (ICUs). That means that around 7 percent of San Francisco's current confirmed caseload are severe cases — and because this is the first time we've heard such numbers, it's not possible to say how the trend has moved in the last two weeks. He also sent condolences to the families, loved ones, and friends of the nine San Franciscans who have died so far.
San Francisco's case count went up only 2.6 percent between Sunday and Monday, the lowest single-day rise, percentage-wise, since the local epidemic began. Overall, the daily rises have appeared to show a successful flattening of the curve around the Bay Area, but data from Europe suggests that many cases take turns for the worst in their second week of symptoms, which means the number of hospitalizations may surge quickly.
"We are making progress in surge preparation," Colfax said. "As San Franciscans know, our surge capacity continues to increase, and today we have reached a significant milestone." He explained that San Francisco has exceeded the state's guidance that all jurisdictions expand their hospital bed capacity by at least 40 percent, in anticipation of a surge in severe cases — as has been seen in other cities around the globe. The city now has 530 ICU beds — a 92-percent increase over pre-pandemic levels — and 1,600 acute-care beds — a 52-percent increase.
Colfax explained that the city has moved around 150 people who either have confirmed cases of COVID-19 or who are awaiting test results and need to self-isolate, into hotels, because they do not require hospital care.
"San Francisco's coronavirus response is grounded, and will continue to be grounded, in data, science, and facts," Colfax said. He announced that beginning today, the city will be providing a greater level of data detail about coronavirus cases in the city — and he said the new "data tracker" will be on the Department of Public Health's website "very soon," with demographic details on cases, number of current hospitalizations, and more.
Such data "dashboards" have been live on the county websites for Santa Clara, Sonoma, and Solano County for well over two weeks or more, and most other local counties have already been giving daily updates on hospitalization figures.
It's not clear if, like Los Angeles County, SF will publish neighborhood-level statistics about where outbreaks have occurred.
Colfax says that San Franciscans can use the new data to better inform their own choices — though it should be noted that as of this week, White House coronavirus response coordinator Deborah Birx is advising Americans to avoid grocery stores and pharmacies for the next two weeks if at all possible, to reduce risk of new transmissions of the virus during the expected surge.