San Francisco Chronicle, April 20, 2020
By Dominic Fracassa
San Francisco officials unveiled a new map Monday that plots the city’s confirmed COVID-19 cases based on the ZIP codes where patients live. The map presents a notable, if limited, illustration of the disease’s hot spots in San Francisco. Those spots broadly overlap with neighborhoods that have long endured the brunt of health care disparities and income inequality in the city. “When there is a pandemic, those issues are heightened. People who may not have access to health care or have poor health conditions or outcomes are the most impacted,” said Mayor London Breed at a news conference Monday. The data, she said, reinforced the importance of prioritizing vulnerable residents in the city’s coronavirus response. San Francisco’s 94110 ZIP code, which includes the Mission District, has the highest number of cases. Across the city, 25% of all confirmed COVID-19 cases have been contracted by Latinos, despite the fact that Latinos make up 15% of San Francisco’s population.
That may be partly attributable to crowded, multigenerational living conditions, according to San Francisco Public Health Director Dr. Grant Colfax, as well as income limitations that can force families to make multiple smaller trips for essential supplies, rather than do “one big grocery shop,” Colfax said. That would give them more opportunities to interact with someone who has the virus. “Many of the people who live here are the essential employees and workers who have kept our city running during this dangerous time,” said Supervisor Hillary Ronen, who represents the Mission District. “And the same systemic problems of poverty and racism are made worse during times of crisis. “Being able to completely social distance, avoid other people in transit, wear masks, afford disinfectants and stay home with your children is a privilege that is not shared by many of our neighbors,” she said. Some may also be distrustful of government officials because of their immigration status, making it difficult for the city to perform the contact tracing that helps identify people who may have been exposed to an infected person, which may contribute to the further spread of the virus. “It is possible they’re fearful of local government, concerned about immigration, or don’t have all the info they need to be comfortable,” Colfax said. “This map is sobering, but unsurprising.”
The 94107 ZIP code, which includes the South of Market neighborhood, has among the highest rates of COVID-19 cases in San Francisco — a figure reflecting the number of confirmed cases per 10,000 residents. That, too, was unsurprising, Colfax said, considering SoMa is home to MSC South, the city’s largest homeless shelter, where the largest outbreak of the virus has erupted. Currently, 96 shelter guests and at least 10 staff members have tested positive for the new coronavirus.
The map’s usefulness is constrained by the fact that it reflects only the number of confirmed cases, a figure limited to the volume of tests that can be performed. “This is important: The map does not show the prevalence or total number in the ZIP codes because most people have not been tested,” Colfax said. On Monday, San Francisco health officials reported 1,216 confirmed COVID-19 cases. Twenty people are known to have died after contracting the novel coronavirus. “What this map reveals is information that helps us understand where the cases are, but it in no way indicates that some parts of our city are safer than others,” Breed said. “I don’t want us to get the idea that that’s the case in any of our neighborhoods.” Also Monday, Jeffrey Tumlin, executive director of the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency, announced that Muni would soon begin reversing some of the “deep and painful” service cuts implemented this month in the face of the growing pandemic. Starting Saturday, modified routes are to start back up for the following service lines: the 5-Fulton and 28-19th Avenue, and segments of the 12-Folsom/Pacific and 54-Felton. Tumlin stressed, however, that the partially restored lines were intended for essential workers and those with no other transportation options.