April 14, 2021

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San Francisco has the lowest coronavirus case rates in the Bay Area. Why is it still purple? – San Francisco Chronicle

2 min read

The reason lies in how well counties have addressed health equity.

California primarily leans on two metrics for placing counties in colored tiers that determine local reopening guidelines, such as when restaurants can resume indoor dining. The main two metrics are positive test rates and daily cases per 100,000 residents; the latter is adjusted based on how much testing a county is doing.

To move from the purple tier to the red tier, counties must report positive test rates of 8% or under and adjusted cased rates of 7 or under. And they must report those red tier numbers for two weeks in a row.

But the state also follows a third metric called the health equity score. That score is the positive test rate for low-income or otherwise disadvantaged neighborhoods. The score is meant to measure how well counties are addressing the pandemic in communities that have been hardest. It also encourages counties to address health inequities by rewarding signs of progress.

The state allows counties to move out of the purple tier and into the red tier if their health equity score is two levels better — the orange tier — for two weeks in a row. In fact, counties can move to the red tier even if their other data is still at the purple level but the health equity score is low.

Marin and San Mateo counties both reported health equity scores under 5% — the threshold for the orange tier — for two weeks in a row as of Tuesday. They were the only Bay Area counties to do that. Marin County is reporting purple tier case rates — 7.4 cases per 100,000 residents — but was still allowed to move to the red tier.

San Francisco’s health equity score does not meet that criteria: It reported a score in the orange tier this week (4.2%), but in the red tier the week before (5.4%). That’s why San Francisco will have to wait one more week to move out of the purple tier.

Erin Allday is a San Francisco Chronicle staff writer. Email: eallday@sfchronicle.com Twitter: @erinallday

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