With ICU availability still dropping across the Bay Area, San Francisco is bucking the trend

With ICU availability still dropping across the Bay Area, the city of San Francisco is bucking the trend.

Compared to a 5.9% capacity overall, the city has 35% of its ICU beds available.

The pool is so large, more patients may be transferred from other areas where ICU access is at zero.

"We have 4 patients in our ICU's across the city who are from outside the area," said San Francisco Health Director Dr. Grant Colfax, who described overflow conditions in Southern California and the Central Valley as dire.

"While we have care available and people need care, it's the moral, ethical, right thing to do to provide that care when asked and when needed."

As part of his COVID19 update, Colfax said hospitalizations in San Francisco are still rising.

"And we are averaging about 237 new cases of COVID every day," he noted, down from 290 daily cases in mid-December.

However, the effects of holiday socializing have yet to surface.

"And 237 daily cases are still far too many for us to let our guard down," warned Colfax.

Although the city's ICU capacity is healthy, the region's is not, so state-ordered business shut-downs remain in force. 

"December was a really hard month and January is not going to be any easier," said SF Mayor London Breed.

Breed acknowledged the city's economic suffering and urged residents to be optimistic- as she is.    

"The vaccine is here, these are difficult times but there is a light at the end of the tunnel," declared Breed.

She points to Laguna Honda Hospital, with more than 700 elderly residents, as a success story.

"These are the lives we've been fighting for, day after day, to save," said Breed, explaining that 3 days of vaccination this week will protect every willing resident, and more than one thousand staff members. 

"Protecting the residents of Laguna Honda is personal to me," said Breed, "because my grandmother lived there for years at the end of her own life, so I know what those residents are feeling, I know what their families are feeling."

At Laguna Honda, COVID infections have been limited to 15 residents and 34 staff members.

The Public Health Department has overseen the vaccination of about 6,000 front line medical workers so far, including paramedics and EMT's.

Still to go, some 70,000 other employees in health-related settings, including technologists, reception, janitorial and food service.

Then the roll-out will expand from Phase 1A to Phase 1B, vaccinating essential workers and people over age 75.

"We are pushing vaccine out into arms as quickly as possible," said Colfax, clarifying that medical centers control much of the dosing.

"Our goal is to make sure the vaccine is not sitting in the freezer."

Asked about the variant strain first discovered in the U.K., Colfax says it hasn't surfaced locally but he won't be surprised if it does.

Viral samples are tested daily to try to detect it.

The variant, said Colfax, is more easily transmitted, but no more deadly or vaccine-resistant.

Mayor Breed urged residents to remain cautious, stay home and healthy, so they are around for the vaccine when it becomes widely available.

"This is a moment, a real moment of hope for our city and we should be so proud."

Debora Villalon is a reporter for KTVU.  Email Debora at debora.villalon@foxtv.com and follow her on Twitter@DeboraKTVU