San Francisco gets a lovely acknowledgment for limiting the COVID-19 spread, though critics are calling out foot-dragging on the homeless shelter front.
It’s easy to forget, as weeks now seem like years, that in February Northern California was the U.S. epicenter of the then-novel coronavirus that had been freshly dubbed COVID-19. Seven of the 21 total U.S. coronavirus patients were here in NorCal during that brief window of the Before Times. It brings some bittersweet comfort that we have thankfully not seen the skyrocketing fatalities of places like New York City and New Orleans, a sort-of success story attributed to early and aggressive shelter-in-place orders and stay-six-feet-apart recommendations. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control gave us a nice little shout-out in that regard, saying San Francisco was one of the most effective cities at social distancing and acknowledged this has played a key role in our fairly low infection spread rate.
“If I had to attribute it to one thing, it has to be [San Francisco] Mayor London Breed’s foresight in calling state of emergency early, getting people to shelter in place early, and really just wonderful messaging of social distancing,” UCSF physician Dr. Jahan Fahimi told KPIX in the above report prepared with help from CNN.
And it was likely welcome news to Mayor Breed’s Easter Sunday that The Atlantic wrote a pretty flattering long-form piece on her role in flattening the coronavirus curve, pointing out that just over a month ago, Breed was taking a fair amount of shit for picking a fight with the NBA on whether to allow Warriors games and shutting down the bars via criteria that some found inconsistent. Both moves would prove shrewd and forward-looking, as compared to those of, say, New York City mayor Bill DeBlasio.
“New York was like Italy, and San Francisco and Washington State are more like, not necessarily the South Koreans, but some of the Asian countries that have had slower growth rates,” former CDC official Cyrus Shahpar told The Atlantic. “Really, it’s about early identification of a problem, saying, ‘We’re going to be more proactive than reactive.’”
But it is not until the closing paragraphs of that 2,000-word Atlantic long-read that they acknowledge the COVID-19 homeless shelter outbreak here in the City, which is currently approaching 100 positive cases, and let’s be honest, we know that far more than 100 shelter residents have been infected. Mission Local calls out that Atlantic article as “a fable” and charges that “the city’s manic, incoherent and insufficient COVID-19 plans for its homeless and underserved populations isn’t a mere footnote in the grander story, as The Atlantic portrayed it. It may end up being the story."
We are too early into this saga to know how Breed’s response will be judged in either public health or political terms. She may have created her own problem of perception by originally announcing an ambitious plan to put homeless in hotels, only to then backtrack and prioritize healthcare workers and discharged patients for housing in those thousands of rooms. Several supervisors have been more proactive while bureaucracy dithered, and Breed may never live down that haunting image of the Moscone Center beds. We have to be extremely grateful that out city is considered among the better responders, but also understand that reality could change overnight.
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