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San Francisco Nears 'Red' Tier, Ranks Number One in Vaccine Willingness

Updated: Feb 24, 2021

  • With COVID case rates falling, California could place San Francisco in the less restrictive 'red' tier in the coming days

  • At last count, the City was averaging 10.2 daily new cases per 100,000 residents, the lowest number since early November 2020, and had a positivity rate of 1.9%

  • About 18% of San Francisco residents over 16, or 138,000 people, had received at least one dose of the vaccine as of Feb. 22

  • San Francisco ranks highest in the nation in vaccine willingness according to census data, with 72.5% of unvaccinated adults in the SF metro area saying they will "definitely" take the vaccine once available. The national average is 54.8%

San Francisco and a handful of other counties could soon be placed into the state's less restrictive 'red' tier, laying the groundwork for a further reopening of businesses and other activities.

According to the most recent data, the City is averaging 10.2 daily new cases per 100,000 residents, the lowest number since early November 2020, along with a positivity rate of 1.9%. Hospitalizations are down to fewer than 100 patients, marking a significant decline from a peak of 259 in early January.

If current trends continue, California may place San Francisco into the red tier in the coming days. The state's risk designations require a county to hold 7-day average of between 4 and 7 new daily cases per 100,000, and a positivity rate between 5% and 8%, to be eligible for the red tier.

Once it meets those criteria, San Francisco could opt to re-open indoor dining on a limited basis and expand capacity at other indoor venues, such as retail stores. California's Department of Public Health typically releases updated tier assignments on Tuesdays, and counties must remain in a lesser tier for at least three weeks before advancing to an even less restrictive tier. Counties have the final word on whether or not to reopen business activities.

Meanwhile, vaccine disbursements could also accelerate soon, with a mass vaccination site at Moscone Center expected to reopen on Feb. 25.

Moscone Center closed temporarily nearly two weeks ago, with officials citing a lack of adequate vaccine supply. Vaccine allotments to San Francisco, which were the primary responsibility of the state until recently, have been inconsistent, unpredictable and insufficient to meet demand.

“SFDPH learns about our allotment of second doses on Sunday and our allotment of first doses on Tuesday night. We never know the following week's allocations, which makes it challenging to plan ahead,” a spokesperson for the City's COVID Command Center told Public Comment last week.

Vaccines in San Francisco peaked on Feb. 10 at 6,668 doses administered, but owing to a lack of supply, that number has steadily declined in the days since.

Governor Gavin Newsom recently tapped Blue Shield of California to take over vaccine delivery in the state, although details are forthcoming around how exactly the new system will change vaccine allotments to San Francisco and other counties.

Statewide, the insurer plans to ramp up to 3 million shots per week by March 1 and 4 million per week by the end of April. The new Blue Shield system is expected to be rolled out in San Francisco in mid-March.

Public Comment reached out to a Blue Shield spokesperson, who declined to provide any details about vaccine allocations and directed questions to CDPH.

"Per the contract with Blue Shield, the state will be responsible for establishing the Vaccine Allocation Criteria and ultimate determination/approval of all vaccine allocations and making allocation determinations based on strategic reporting from Blue Shield," said Darrel Ng, a spokesperson for CDPH. The department plans to release more details about the new vaccine system in the coming days, he said.

One potential piece of good news for San Francisco: According to a U.S. Census survey, the San Francisco metro area ranks first in the country in willingness to receive the vaccine.

In a survey conducted between Jan. 20 and Feb. 1, 72.5% of unvaccinated adults in the San Francisco area said that they would "definitely" take a vaccine once it is available to them. That was the highest of any metro area in the U.S., and markedly higher than the national average of 54.8%. Statewide, 61.7% of respondents said they would definitely take the vaccine.

This week, Blue Shield launched an advertising campaign in English and Spanish aimed at promoting the vaccine, highlighting its safety and effectiveness in protecting both one's self and loved ones.

About 18% of San Francisco residents over 16, or 138,000 people, had received at least one dose of the vaccine as of Feb. 22. About 6% of the population over 16 have received both doses.

Image by Jake Buonemani
Image by Rasmus Gundorff Sæderup

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