COVID-19 testing at the San Francisco Department of Public Health laboratory. (Photo by Tyrone Jue courtesy of San Francisco Department of Public Health)

More than two weeks after Christmas, San Francisco leaders on Tuesday said an increase in COVID-19 cases citywide as a result of the recent holidays is becoming apparent, but they’re hopeful the city can weather the latest surge.

Although the city is currently averaging 280 new COVID-19 cases daily, a sharp increase from an average of 237 new cases daily just last week, and hospitalizations remain high, the rate of infection appears to be slower than the previous Thanksgiving surge.

“While our cases are still higher than ever, the rate of increase isn’t as severe as we saw after Thanksgiving,” Mayor London Breed said. “This is some good news, and it means hopefully that people are following the (stay-at-home) health order. However, we started this holiday at a more precarious point, so even a slower rate of increase is seriously concerning. Our cases and hospitalizations remain dangerously high.”

Breed added, “The Bay Area as a whole, like pretty much the entire state, remains in a very difficult position. Yes, the vaccine continues to rollout but we aren’t yet able to see the curve flattening.”

San Francisco Department of Public Health Director Dr. Grant Colfax said, “What we’re seeing now is a holiday surge on top of an even larger Thanksgiving surge. We are in a dynamic situation, where the cases are rising in a post-December holiday surge above an already record-setting surge after Thanksgiving.”

Although hospitalizations as a result of COVID-19 remain at the highest they’ve ever been, the city still has 29 precent of intensive care unit beds available while ICU capacity in nearby counties continues to dwindle.

“Our own history tells us that so far, San Francisco can successfully manage surges such as this. But we must continue to work to flatten this curve. We need to turn this around. The current trajectory is not sustainable.”

Colfax said the rollout of the Pfizer vaccine continues, with SFDPH already having vaccinated thousands of frontline health care workers, as well as 715 residents at Laguna Honda, a city-operated long-term care facility for the elderly.

This week, SFDPH is planning to start vaccinating its patients who are 65 years old and up.

The rollout of the COVID-19 vaccine is being coordinated by the California Department of Public Health and distributed to patients through their health care providers.