It's been a week since Governor Gavin Newsom and SF Mayor London Breed made surprise announcements that the San Francisco Bay Area was ready to restart outdoor dining and personal services — bringing things back to where they were, pandemic-business-wise, back in November. It seemed to be sooner than most people expected, and based on downward-trending COVID infections rather than on actual numbers achieved.
But in the week since, we can see the data skewing further downward, both in daily new cases and the percent-positivity rate — the main metrics by which the state had been dictating reopening criteria since the end of the summer. While San Francisco remains solidly in the "Purple" zone, it's looking likely that we could reach "Red" status again within a matter of weeks.
As of Tuesday's update from the state, all of the Bay Area is still purple, as is the vast majority of the state. And as CA Health and Human Services Secretary Dr. Mark Ghaly reported today, the Bay Area's average ICU bed availability stands at 18% — slightly worse than numbers we were hearing last week that were around 25%. Still, Ghaly said the four-week projection has the Bay Area region reaching 33% ICU availability by March 1, which is good news — and in SF proper, ICU availability has been around there for weeks.
San Francisco's daily average new case rate is 19.2 per 100,000 residents — or 12.5 after adjusting for testing prevalence. This is down 50% from two weeks ago when the city was seeing 38.5 new daily cases (unadjusted) per 100,000 residents. Also, the city's percent-positivity rate is down to 2.9% from 4.3% two weeks ago.
The threshold for getting back to the red zone has already been met in terms of percent-positivity — SF would technically qualify for "Orange" tier status, actually. But the state does look at multi-week trends, and the adjusted new daily case rate will need to get down to 7 or below (per 100,000).
By contrast, at the state level, there are still an average of 47.7 daily new cases per 100,000 people, and a percent-positivity rate of 10%.
COVID hospitalizations continue to drop both at the state and regional level, though this comes after a couple of weeks of dismally high daily death counts that reflect the holiday surge in cases. In San Francisco, COVID hospitalizations (confirmed and suspected cases) are down to 173 as of Sunday, down 35% from a high of 265 around January 9. And across the region, hospitalizations are down 34% from an early January peak, with 1,571 patients in hospitals as of Sunday, down from 2,369 about three weeks ago.
Once San Francisco qualifies again for "Red" tier status, depending on whether the city's health department agrees, it will potentially mean that gyms can reopen at limited capacity, as can museums, and more. San Francisco previously waited to enter the "Orange" tier before allowing indoor dining to resume at 25% capacity, but according to the state's guidelines, "Red" status allows this, with greater capacities allowed at the "Orange" and "Yellow" tiers.
Many San Francisco restaurants and bars that were open for outdoor service in the fall have not yet reopened, either because of the weather or because they are waiting for restrictions to ease further.