SAN FRANCISCO (CBS SF) -- A batch of 2,000 doses of Pfizer/BioNTech's COVID-19 vaccine arrived at Zuckerberg San Francisco General Hospital Monday morning as new cases of the virus continue to soar in the city, filling up beds in hospitals and intensive care units.
Calling it a historical day, San Francisco Public Health Director Dr. Grant Colfax said vaccinations of front line health care workers at San Francisco General will begin immediately.
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"Obviously, it is incredibly important to begin vaccinating people are quickly as possible," he told reporters on a Zoom call.
While the vaccine carries with it future hopes in the battle against the virus, Colfax said residents can't lose sight of the current dire situation unfolding within San Francisco.
"It will be a long (vaccine) rollout and too late for this surge," he said.
Currently, San Francisco is grouped with hospitals in other Bay Area counties into one of five COVID ICU regions in the state. As of Monday, the availability of ICU beds had dropped from around 25 percent to 17.8 percent in just one week.
While those numbers are alarming, they are not as bad as in other regions. Colfax said the greater Sacramento region had 14.8 percent, the Southern California region which includes San Diego and Los Angeles had just 2.7 percent and there were no available ICU beds in the San Joaquin Valley region.
"America has lost more people due to COVID-19 than during World War II. Across the country, as many people are dying daily of COVID-19 as died on 9/11 and yet this surge continues with no signs of slowing," Colfax said. "Cases are rapidly rising and hospital bed availability is shrinking across the state, the region and San Francisco...We expect demand over the next two weeks to increase."
He said there were currently at least 2,807 active cases of COVID-19 among the residents of San Francisco. There were 148 COVID patients hospitalized in San Francisco, 37 of those are in intensive care.
And the feared Thanksgiving surge was underway. New cases have increased by 50 percent after Thanksgiving and over last week an average of 200 people have tested positive each day.
"With so much virus out there, you are not going to get away with any bad behavior," he said.
Colfax warned that with hospitalizations lagging about two weeks behind infections. San Francisco will run out of ICU beds in the next 3-4 weeks.
"I think it is important for us to step back for a moment and realize how dire out situation is," he said. "At this point, many of us know or possibly have been diagnosed with COVID 19. And hopefully people have done okay. But despite that hope, unfortunately, many of us know people who have become very ill and died. Simply put this virus kills."
San Francisco Mayor London Breed tweeted about the arrival of the Pfizer vaccine Monday afternoon, saying "there is a light at the end of the tunnel."
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