San Francisco COVID-19 hospitalizations are highest ever and getting worse, health director says

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- More than four months into the pandemic, the coronavirus is still spreading at an alarming rate in San Francisco, the city's health director warned in a press conference Thursday.

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The number of patients hospitalized for COVID-19 in the city is "higher than it's ever been before and continues to climb," Dr. Grant Colfax said. As of Thursday, 107 people were in the hospital and 25% of those were in intensive care, he said.

"Let me be clear. We are in a major surge of COVID-19," said Colfax. "The virus is moving fast and more people are getting seriously ill."

San Francisco has 6,197 confirmed cases and 57 deaths. The city went from 5,000 to 6,000 coronavirus cases in 10 days.

At the current rate of spread, Colfax estimates San Francisco will have more than 750 people hospitalized with COVID-19 by mid-October and more than 600 deaths by the end of the year.

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Plausible worst-case scenarios show 2,400 hospitalizations and 1,800 deaths.

"These scenarios become unfortunately more likely as each day goes by," Colfax said.

"If you're pushing up towards 750 patients a quarter in the ICU, we're right at the edge at that point in time," said UCSF epidemiologist, Dr. George Rutherford. "And then if something else happens, if there's a big influenza outbreak, if there's some sort of disaster, if we have to start taking people from fires, that's where we start to run out of room."

The rise in hospitalizations is the main reason San Francisco is on the state's COVID-19 watch list and the reason it has paused its reopening plan indefinitely.

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"Please wear a mask. It's really not that hard," Colfax pleaded. "I want to see San Francisco opening schools instead of medical sites, and I know you do too."

In order to create more space in San Francisco's hospital, the city has converted a building in the Presidio into a care facility. It's ready to go right now, should the city need to transfer low acuity, non-COVID-19 patients out of overrun hospitals.

"Unfortunately other ailments are not stopping just because of the pandemic. Opening this facility will allow the city to shore up our medical resources," said District 2 Supervisor Catherine Stefani, who collaborated on the new care site, which if needed will initially open to 20 patients, with a capacity of 93.

"It is not a drop in acute care site, testing location, or shelter. So please do not visit this location if you are seeking any of those services," said Stefani.

Colfax asked San Franciscans to help avoid that scenario.

"Everyone needs to behave as if each of us has COVID-19. It doesn't matter how you feel or look, or even if you got a negative test, be careful."

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