San Francisco expected to rise to most restrictive purple tier

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Just weeks ago, San Francisco was in the state's least restrictive yellow COVID-19 tier.

While San Francisco remains in the red after state officials announced the latest tier assignments Tuesday, city officials say it is still on a trajectory to the highest risk purple tier.

Moving to the yellow tier allowed for more reopening, so officials expected to see cases rise. But what surprised them was how quickly case numbers went up and how they spread into areas of the city that weren’t previously as badly hit.

Deputy Health Officer Dr. Susan Philip said a new pattern is emerging on the city maps. "What we see is that it is much more diffuse around the city than it ever has before."

Cases are spiking beyond early hot spots like the Mission, which is home to essential workers and families living in large households.

That is one indication everyone is letting their guard down and ignoring pleas not to travel.

"We are seeing what is happening all over the country, of numbers going up. So when people are traveling by plane to visit friends or family and then returning, that provides a continued risk for San Francisco," said Dr. Philip.

She believes that this surge is not being dictated by a few outbreaks or one single cause, but an overall rise in individuals participating in risky behaviors.

"All of us are not following behaviors that we know prevent spread of the virus, which is wearing masks, staying six feet apart, not gathering in groups outside of our immediate households," she said. "These things aren’t happening and that’s why we’re seeing this increase in cases."

There has been significant progress in developing an effective vaccine, which could be a game changer for the holiday season - next year.

"They hold the key, they hold the promise to being able to have a normal holiday season - Thanksgiving and all the winter holidays - in 2021. But we have to get there."

But the vaccine will not arrive in time to prevent spread this holiday season, which is why public health officials are asking anyone who can to stay home and go back to the basics like wearing a mask, washing your hands and distancing.

"All of those things will help us, will enable us ‘til we get to the point next summer, next fall when the majority of us can get this vaccine. When we can all get this vaccine and look forward to better times ahead."