Data shows shift in socioeconomic, racial dynamics of COVID-19 infections in SF and Marin County

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ByKate Larsen KGO logo
Wednesday, November 25, 2020
More white people test COVID-19 positive, Bay Area experts say
New data shows a shift in socioeconomic and racial dynamics of COVID-19 infections in San Francisco and Marin County.

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- When San Francisco moved into the yellow tier last month, health officials knew cases would go up as the city reopened. But, they've been surprised at how quickly and how high coronavirus cases have surged, and in new demographics.

"All across the city, many groups, we're all letting our guard down," said San Francisco deputy health officer, Dr. Susan Philip. Dr. Philip says the current surge, which is the third surge since the pandemic began, is different. "We have a higher proportion than we did in earlier surges of people who are White who are testing positive."

Latinos still account for the largest number of COVID-19 cases in San Francisco, but Dr. Philip says the overall percentage of Latino cases is down from 50% of total cases over the summer, to 40% in November. While cases among White people have gone up from 19% in September/October to 27% in November.

A San Francisco map of new COVID cases in the past month shows just that. The darker the green, the higher the case count per 10,000 residents. Over the summer, most of the COVID-19 cases were concentrated in the Southeast part of San Francisco. Now, the cases are more evenly distributed. On the map, Presidio Heights, Pacific Heights, and the Marina now look similar to the Tenderloin, Mission District, and South of Market.

"The fact that this is now more evenly distributed across the city, means that there is potential for an even more explosive increase in cases," said Dr. Philip.

Over the summer in Marin, half of the cases were concentrated in San Rafael's Canal District, a mostly Latino neighborhood. Now, said Marin County Health Officer, Dr. Matt Willis, "it's more popcorn across the whole county."

Dr. Willis says a Marin County graph shows a shift in socioeconomic and racial dynamics during the pandemic.

Latino cases, shown in green, went down from 66% in September to 42% in November. While cases among White people, shown in blue, went up from 29% in September to 45% in November. Dr. Willis says the new infections are happening because of indoor gatherings. "A baby shower, a gathering where people got together for a football game was another recent example with five cases, there was a wedding, funeral."

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Dr. Willis is concerned the current surge is so intense that more activities, like outdoor dining, will carry more risk. But this is not a forgone conclusion, individuals can collectively control the outbreaks by avoiding indoor gatherings, staying distanced, and wearing masks.

"The individual decisions that we make, and that you all make together, do add up and do make a difference," said Dr. Philip.

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