At present, San Francisco’s positivity rate for COVID-19 is 5.1% – a cause for concern among experts at John Hopkins University. Why? The last time SF saw such a high positivity was in January at the start of that season’s holiday increase, which later peaked at 18.9%.
Over 84% of San Franciscans has completed a complete COVID-19 vaccine series; more than 90% of the city’s residents have received at least one shot of a vaccine to protect against coronavirus. The Seven Times Seven still has one of the most vaccinated cohorts of any major metropolis, anywhere in the world. But as more transferable variants and sub-variants – like BA.2 Omicron – Continue to emerge, test positivity rates, which are the average number of positive results from a batch of COVID-19 tests, will inevitably increase.
That said, health experts at John Hopkins University warn that any observed test positive rate of 5% or more is cause for concern.
“The higher the percentage positive, the more worrying it is,” reading a paper published by the Public Health School on Understanding COVID-19 Test Information. “As a rule of thumb, one threshold for the positive percentage is ‘too high’, however, 5%.”
Back in May, the WHO (World Health Organization) recommended that the “percentage positive” remain below 5% for at least two weeks before governments consider reopening. San Francisco has now surpassed that – two days later SFMTA abolished the requirement to wear a mask on public transport vehicles.
City data referenced by NBC Bay Area showed that the last time San Francisco saw a positivity of over 5% was in January; the single-digit percentage point would eventually rise to 18.9% amid the height of last winter’s COVID-19 rise. In March, things had calmed down and positivity rates fell back to 2.4% – before rising again earlier this month.
Nevertheless, the rise in new case numbers is not enough to sound the alarm in the city, according to San Francisco Department of Public Health officials, who note that they are not worried about this rise … (yet).
“While the case has been a key measure of the virus’ spread, we also look at indicators of serious illness such as hospitalizations and deaths to inform public health decisions and to make decisions on how best to use resources to meet the needs of severely affected communities,” he said. The city’s health department said in a statement to the Chronicle.
Right now, San Francisco’s 5.1% COVID-19 test positivity rate is as much as two percentage points higher than the state average. And given that the city’s test positivity has already risen 0.5% since earlier in the week, it’s likely we’ll consider seeing an increase in the coming weeks.
Photo: Medical staff take a sample from a person at a drive-thru Coronavirus COVID-19 test station at a Kaiser Permanente facility on March 12, 2020 in San Francisco, California. Kaiser Permanente has opened a drive-thru Coronavirus test station where patients showing signs and symptoms of Coronavirus can be referred by a physician for testing. (Photo by Justin Sullivan / Getty Images)