San Francisco Mayor London Breed and Public Health Director Dr. Grant Colfax were upbeat in their weekly pandemic press conference once again this week, focusing mostly on the vaccine distribution process as it stands. But Colfax cautioned that it will be at least another week or two before we get a better picture of the impact of gatherings and holiday travel over Christmas and New Year's.
As he did last week, Dr. Colfax continued to report on an apparent leveling off of cases and hospitalizations in the city, though he stressed "we will not know until mid-January" whether there will be a further surge stemming from holiday. San Francisco currently has 35% available capacity in intensive care units (ICUs), compared to just 5.9% across the Bay Area region — and until the regional average rises above 15% capacity, the state-mandated stay-at-home order will not be lifted.
Colfax clarified that one reason that more hospital capacity exists in San Francisco may have to do with seasonal dips in things like elective surgeries.
Breed and Colfax discussed the rollout of vaccinations at Laguna Honda Hospital and elsewhere in the city, and Breed brought in Dr. Joshua Adler from UCSF to discuss how the vaccines are being distributed there. Dr. Adler said that UCSF is now vaccinating 1,100 people per day, and they hope to increase that number in the coming weeks — with healthcare workers being first in line for vaccination. He also said that, so far, vaccine shipments from the manufacturers have been keeping up with the rate at which UCSF has been able to vaccinate people.
Dr. Colfax said that the Department of Public Health had vaccinated about 6,000 people so far between Zuckerberg SF General Hospital, Laguna Honda, and elsewhere in the city system. At Laguna Honda, which is home to over 700 elderly and infirm patients, vaccines began being administered Monday and the first round of doses is expected to be complete for all residents who want them by Wednesday.
Breed shared a couple of photos of residents at Laguna Honda getting their vaccine shots, including the one above of Jasper Harris. "He has had to deal with isolation and separation [in this pandemic]," Breed said. "Thanks to Laguna Honda staff, he is alive and well, and he can get the vaccine."
While it may be months before widespread vaccinations are happening across the city, with demand far outweighing supply at present, Dr. Colfax said, "We expect that everyone who wants a vaccine will get one eventually, and we will work together... to make this happen."
Once the city completes Phase 1A of the distribution process, Phase 1B will begin, with the state dictating what groups will be next in line for vaccines. This phase will likely include people over the age of 75, as well as educators and front-line essential workers like grocery store employees.
As of Tuesday, San Francisco has had 24,564 cumulative, documented cases of COVID-19, and 198 people have died — four added since Monday. The new daily case count today was 156, but Colfax discussed a daily average just over 200, or around 27 new cases per day per 100,000 residents. This is up from 6 new cases per 100,000 in late October, and 15 per day in late November, as shown in a graph Colfax shared last week.
See today's full briefing below.
Top image: Medical staff at work in an ICU in Houston, Texas in early December. Photo by Go Nakamura/Getty Images