San Francisco anticipates surge in COVID-19 cases

The City of San Francisco is planning for a significant rise in COVID-19 cases and calling for more support from state and federal officials.

City officials want to relieve pressure on local hospitals as a potential surge of patients requiring hospitalization becomes more apparent. 

San Francisco currently has 13,000 surgical beds and 200 intensive care unit beds at its hospitals, but Mayor London Breed said that's not enough. She's calling for an additional 5,000 beds to be able to meet the demand. 

“From the beginning of the global coronavirus outbreak, we have been getting as prepared as possible in San Francisco,” the mayor said. "Our entire hospital system has been doing the work to create a plan and to ramp up our resources, but we cannot do this alone.

Two weeks ago the city had only reported 2 confirmed cases on COVID-19, on Wednesday, the San Francisco Public Health Department confirmed 178 cases of the virus. 

"Sadly, it's going to get worse," Breed said. 

As the New York City hospital system struggles to keep up with the amount of COVID-19 patients it receives, San Francisco is trying to curtail a similar scenario. 

The White House said New York City has become the epicenter of the coronavirus in the U.S. and San Francisco Public Health Director Dr. Grant Colfax said based on data, the city could see a rapid rate of infection. 

“We know the virus is here. We are going to be dealing with its impact for some time, and we are doing everything we can to reduce its harms in our community,” said Colfax

San Francisco estimates it would need as many as 1,500 more ventilators and 5,000 more hospital beds to meet a similar surge.

On Wednesday, Breed requested more assistance from both the state and the federal government to help local efforts to expand capacity at hospitals in San Francisco. 

In the meantime, the city has already begun freeing up space at some hospital facilities by canceling or postponing elective surgeries and routine medical appointments and moving services to telephone and video conference as appropriate to reduce the volume of patients.