San Francisco's whitest neighborhood, the Marina, is experiencing its highest COVID case rate of the pandemic this month — and in a turnaround from last year's trends, it's currently seeing the city's lion's share of new cases.
Much like other cities around the country, SF's poorest neighborhoods and those that are majority non-white saw some of the highest rates of COVID for much of 2020 and through last spring. But with the Omicron surge this month, it appears to be whiter and more affluent parts of the city are seeing the most recorded cases, according to city data.
The SF Department of Public Health tracks case numbers by neighborhood, and the current map — reflecting cases going back to late October — shows the Marina in darkest blue, with a rate of 197 cases per 10,000 residents. Nearby Russian Hill is next with 164 cases per 10,000 residents, followed by Hayes Valley with 158.
The Chronicle notes that the Marina's seven-day rolling average of new COVID cases as of Christmas Eve was 141 — the highest of any other neighborhood and seven times higher than during the same week last December. Meanwhile, hard-hit neighborhoods in the early pandemic like the Tenderloin and Bayview Hunters Point are not seeing a notable uptick this month versus a year ago at this time.
The paper makes several correlations based on neighborhood demographics, and while it's three of the whitest neighborhoods that are being impacted most by the Omicron variant right now — and white people make up the largest share of the city's unvaccinated minority — these are also neighborhoods that skew younger. The Marina, Russian Hill, and Hayes Valley have some of the highest concentrations of city residents between the ages of 25 and 44 — and it also stands to reason that these are some of the city's most social residents as well, who were probably packing into crowded bars during the early part of December.
With 7,461 cases to date per 100,000 residents, the Marina is now catching up to some of the harder-hit neighborhoods — though it still has quite a way to go. The hardest-hit neighborhood in terms of overall case numbers remains Bayview Hunters Point, which has seen almost 13,000 cases to date per 100,000 residents. The Mission and Visitacion Valley are close behind with over 10,000 cases per 100,000 residents.
"What Omicron is gonna do is infect everybody who’s not vaccinated," says UCSF's Dr. George Rutherford, speaking to the Chronicle. "It’s also gonna infect people around them. When you go to places that don’t have [vaccine] coverage, that’s where it’s gonna be."
Whether it's primarily breakthrough cases among the vaccinated or cases among the unvaccinated seeding new cases in the Marina vicinity is not clear. But we do know, via the Department of Public Health, that the Marina has one of the lower overall vaccination rates of any other neighborhood in the city. Approximately 69% of Marina residents are fully vaccinated, compared to upwards of 90% in the Bayview — and around 80% for neighborhoods like the Castro, Mission, and Bernal Heights.
Other low-vaccinated neighborhoods — is it about politics?!? — are the Presidio (61%), Russian Hill (72%), Lone Mountain (61%), and Lakeshore (44%).