While San Francisco has had it relatively good when it comes to COVID mortality in this pandemic, we were hardly spared. And on Saturday, San Francisco marked its 1000th death from COVID-19.
We are 29 months into this grueling pandemic, and I guess we can't yet say we're in the endemic stage because people like UCSF's Dr. Bob Wachter say they still won't dine indoors or take their masks off just yet until we're officially below 5 new daily cases per 100,000 residents. (Official counts being severe undercounts at this point.)
But life is pretty much back to normal, minus masks still technically being mandatory on BART, and the lingering fear of going to see elderly relatives and accidentally infecting them after being out at a bar or club recently. A great many of us have now been infected at least once, leading to some complacency and, for most, a sense that this virus is no longer a big deal once we're vaxxed.
The 1000th death in San Francisco shouldn't go unremarked-upon, though. That is still a lot of people, no matter how you slice it — and a lot more than would have died from the flu in 29 months. (In a bad flu year in which ~50,000 Americans die from flu, San Francisco's prorated share of that, all things being equal, would be around 140 people.)
San Francisco's COVID mortality rate remains one of the lowest of any major city in the country. Our per capita death rate in the pandemic remains around 0.1%, or just under 114 people per 100,000 city residents. As it was back in December, that rate remains close to one-third of the U.S. average. By comparison, New York City has seen 495 COVID deaths per 100,000 residents, and Los Angeles has seen 391 deaths per 100,000 residents. Over 39,000 people and counting have died from the virus in Los Angeles County since the pandemic began.
The BA.5 variant remains among us, but SF's official case counts have been declining steadily over the last month. The last day of available data, August 24, saw 131 new cases recorded. This would be around 15 new cases per 100,000 residents — though the real number, according to some experts, is likely at least five times higher than that given the prevalence of at-home testing.
For the gay community in SF, especially, monkeypox quickly overtook COVID when it comes to paranoia priority this summer, even if there have been no deaths from monkeypox.
It seems like it's always jumping the gun to say so in this pandemic, but we may have — maybe — turned a corner, especially with new updated boosters on the way starting hopefully next month. Among older people and the immunocompromised, the threat of long COVID or severe infection remains high, though, so you'll still see people masking up for some time.
"With no variant much more infectious than BA.5 on horizon, & a probable [rise] in boosting soon w/ new bivalent [vaccines], there's a good chance we’ll see continued [declines] in case rates [and asymptomatic positive test rates] this fall," Wachter wrote on Twitter over the weekend. "If so, I’ll gladly join the ranks of the maskless – as long as the rates stay down!"