Inmates take in fresh air at San Quentin State Prison in Marin County.

On the Inside of an Outbreak: How COVID-19 Spread in San Quentin

We had zero infections inside San Quentin since the lockdown was implemented. We thought we’d be going back to school soon, attending college classes, self-help and enjoying contact visits with family. But, on May 30, buses pulled up from a Chino prison where COVID-19 had run rampant. One hundred and twenty-one men exited those buses, some showing symptoms of COVID-19, according to medical personnel working in the prisons receiving area.

People congregate on the sidewalk to chat and sell found goods outside the Tenderloin Museum on Leavenworth and Eddy streets in late June.

What Crowding Looks Like During a Pandemic: Dismal Days in the Tenderloin

In a pandemic that mandates physical distancing, survival in the poverty-suffused Tenderloin is endangered by relentlessly overcrowded conditions, a dearth of open public spaces and limited mobility. Neighborhood residents suffer the city’s second-highest rate of COVID-19 infections — eclipsed only by the Bayview — and five times that of neighboring Nob Hill.

Air pollution can worsen COVID-19, scientific research suggests, but Bay Area regulators haven't moved to tighten air pollution limits.

Air Pollution Worsens COVID-19, but Bay Area Emissions Limits Are Unchanged

Limits on construction activity were lifted May 17 as California reopened. Reopening presaged a summer-long spike in COVID-19 cases. As the pandemic continues through wildfire season, and San Franciscans breathe in pollution from the fires’ miles-wide blankets of smoke, public health experts and researchers contacted for this article agree that human-created sources of pollution should be limited or eliminated.

San Francisco's Director of Emergency Management, Mary Ellen Carroll, warns city residents to stay inside to avoid smoke from Northern California wildfires.

S.F. Officials Warn Residents to Stay In to Avoid Smoke, May Open Respite Centers

City officials advised San Francisco residents to stay indoors wherever possible with the windows shut to protect against smoke from wildfires that has blanketed the region. On Wednesday afternoon, air quality was designated as unhealthy, though it has fluctuated. If smoke pollution deteriorates air quality to “very unhealthy,” the city will open respite centers, officials said in a press conference.

Health Right

COVID-19 Opens New Frontiers in Addiction Medicine

When Mayor London Breed announced a strict shelter-in-place order on March 16 in response to the COVID-19 outbreak, health facilities scrambled to identify ways to safely see patients. For addiction medicine doctors, this presented a particularly difficult challenge: Patients engaged in medication-assisted treatment for opioid addiction must be seen frequently, often every few days. Regular doctor visits are not just helpful for people’s recovery but until that point had been required by the federal government for the dispensing of certain opioid addiction medications. As doctors across San Francisco switched to telehealth visits — talking to patients over the phone or through video chat — an unexpected shift took place. Missed appointments, a norm before the shelter-in-place order, became rare.

A Cancer Information Service staffer receives an inquiry from a customer on the telephone. Bill Branson / National Cancer Institute

Contact Tracers Prioritize Timely, Culturally Competent Calls as Coronavirus Surges

San Francisco has set a goal of communicating with 90% of the people here who test positive for the novel coronavirus and also reaching 90% of their close contacts. But in part due to a delayed trove of test data, the city has reached just 73% of the people for whom it received positive test results over the previous two weeks and 84% of those peoples’ close contacts. In contact tracing, health workers identify and reach out to people who have an infectious disease, then try to determine with whom they have been in close contact and to whom they may have transmitted the disease. Then they try to reach those potentially exposed people. When case investigators and contact tracers talk with someone who has tested positive or potentially been exposed, they ask questions, but they also make testing and resource referrals, and give directions on how to try to stop the disease from spreading further.

City Clears Homeless Residents From Notorious Tenderloin Alley

Like most of the homeless residents on Willow Street Tuesday morning, Leif Skorochod was headed for either a city-sanctioned tent camp or the barracks-style homeless shelter at Moscone Convention Center after city workers arrived early that morning and gave them a choice: Accept shelter or leave. Homeless Outreach Team members discussed placement options with tent residents while Public Works crews tossed items into truck beds. At least two residents received hotel rooms because they have underlying health conditions. The rest of those the Public Press spoke to were either headed to Moscone or a sanctioned camp site.

Major COVID-19 Surge in S.F.

The number of people hospitalized with COVID-19 in San Francisco is rising rapidly and the city is facing “a major surge.” Department of Public Health Director Dr. Grant Colfax said. “In April, we experienced a surge of COVID-19 cases, which at its peak, saw 94 San Franciscans in the hospital. That number dropped to just 26 patients six weeks ago. Today, it’s 107.” 

Dr. Colfax said the growth rate of new infections is alarming. “It took us 38 days to go from 2000 to 3000 cases, it took us half as long to go from 3000 to 4000.

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Months Into Pandemic, Physician Reflects on Developing Coronavirus Knowledge

In March, Dr. Monica Bhargava, a pulmonary critical care physician at the county hospital in Oakland, predicted on “Civic” that the novel coronavirus would deeply affect the region’s health care system for many months to come. That, and some of her other observations, turned out to be correct. In recent months, scientists and doctors have learned much more about how the virus spreads and what makes patients vulnerable to serious complications. Bhargava returned to “Civic” to follow up on her earlier observations and discuss how the conversations doctors, patients and whole communities are having about managing the coronavirus pandemic have changed. “A lot of my patients live five or six patients to a one-bedroom.