S.F. is doing much better than Europe right now in COVID-19 pandemic

With many residents wearing masks and practicing social distancing, San Francisco is doing an excellent job of preventing the spread of COVID-19, even better than most of Europe these days.

In S.F., the public school system has yet to open campuses and the largest university, San Francisco State, is also conducting classes online. Restaurants are expanding outdoor eating areas into parking lots and onto streets and some are welcoming back diners indoors at very limited capacities. Bars remain closed.

Meanwhile, many cities in Europe that fully reopened over the summer and sent kids back to school in the fall are returning to lockdown. Countries that didn’t have rules around wearing masks are introducing them.


Paris will begin enforcing a curfew from 9 p.m. to 6 p.m. Friday, and in London, and seven other areas of Britain, people are barred from meeting with anyone indoors from outside their households and will be asked to minimize travel starting this weekend.

“Europe reopened too quickly is the simple answer,” said Dr. George Rutherfod, UCSF’s head of disease and global epidemiology. “I don’t know chapter and verse about it, but that’s the sense I get from the coverage. They’re at a higher latitude it’s colder and people are starting to go inside more.”

The number of tests coming back positive in S.F. has hit an extremely low 1%, while the 7-day positivity rate as of Oct. 15 is soaring in many European countries, hitting 17.3% in the Netherlands, 10% in Spain, 7.5% in France, 6.3% in Italy, 5.9% in the United Kingdom, and 2.8% in Sweden, according to Our World in Data.

California as a whole has a positivity rate lower than all of these countries at 2.6% with a general trend of new cases declining.

There are some countries with rates nearly as low as S.F.’s: Denmark and Finland are at 1.1% and Norway 1.4%.

San Francisco has kept its number of cases relatively low, with some ups and downs, yet not a major surge that overwhelmed the city’s healthcare system and impacted its ability to provide optimal care. The city of nearly 900,000 residents has reported 11,756 cases and 126 deaths as of Oct. 15.

The number of patients landing in hospitals has been lower than other major cities such as New York that experienced a surge in the spring, and those infected patients in S.F. requiring hospitalization have received focused, personal care,

France, a country of some 67 million people, recorded 22,591 new cases Wednesday, while California (population 40 million) reported 3,329 new infections on Wednesday. President Emmanuel Macron has deploy 12,000 police officers to enforce the new curfew in Paris and eight other regions.

Italy set a one-day record for infections and recorded the highest daily death toll of this second wave, adding 83 victims to bring its count to nearly 36,400, the second-highest in Europe after Britain.

The Netherlands closed bars and restaurants this week; the country where masks had been used sparingly is now recommending them. The Czech Republic and Northern Ireland shut schools. Poland limited restaurant hours and closed gyms and pools.

European nations have seen nearly 230,000 confirmed deaths from the virus, while the U.S. has recorded over 217,000, though experts agree the official figures understate the true toll.

So far in the new surges, deaths have not increased at the same pace as infections.

“About 80% of countries across the European regions are seeing a growth” in COVID-19 cases, Maria Van Kerkhove, the World Health Organization’s technical lead for coronavirus, said on CNN’s “New Day” Thursday.

By comparison, California is generally doing well, with a handful of exceptions such as Shasta County where a religious school and a nursing facility experienced outbreaks. Outside California, the United States is struggling. New cases per day are on the rise in 44 states, with many of the biggest surges in the Midwest and Great Plains, where resistance to masks and other precautions has been running high and the virus has often been seen as just a big-city problem. Deaths per day are climbing in 30 states.

“I see this as one of the toughest times in the epidemic,” said Dr. Peter Hotez, an infectious-disease specialist at the Baylor College of Medicine in Texas. “The numbers are going up pretty rapidly. We’re going to see a pretty large epidemic across the Northern Hemisphere.”

Dr. Anthony Fauci, the U.S. government’s top infectious-disease expert, said Americans should think hard about whether to hold Thanksgiving gatherings.

The Associated Press contributed to this story.

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