Days after the first case of the novel coronavirus was reported in the United States on Jan. 21, San Francisco’s Chinatown was preparing for its annual Chinese New Year festivities. With many people traveling between China and S.F. for the holiday, fears heightened that an outbreak could explode in this 24-block slice of the city. Mayor London Breed held a press conference reassuring the city it was safe to celebrate, and Breed rode on a float in the parade on Feb. 8.
Thousands turned out for events, but an uncontrollable outbreak never hit, and even after a July surge of cases in San Francisco, Chinatown continues to have among the lowest number of cases in the city.
After Sea Cliff, where fewer than 10 cases have been detected, Chinatown has the second-lowest count in the city with 28 cases, according to data from S.F.’s Department of Public Health. By comparison, three of the city’s hardest-hit neighborhoods, the Mission District, Bayview Hunters Point and the Tenderloin have seen 980, 916 and 610 cases respectively.
Health experts in San Francisco have noticed the trend, and they don’t know exactly why the cases are significantly low in Chinatown, but they suspect it’s due to a lack of testing and cases going undetected, or a result of residents embracing wearing masks early in the pandemic and following the shelter-in-place order with vigilance. At the Chinese New Year Parade, before the first case was detected in the city and long before any health officials encouraged face coverings, a handful of people wore masks, according to news reports.
“I don’t think we have enough information to know,” said Dr. Kent Woo, executive director of the NICOS Chinese Health Coalition. “My guess would be it’s some combination of both. We’ve done a little too good of a job of sheltering in place. We haven’t left home, and we haven’t even left home for the health care we need to get tested.” <- SPIN