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Why San Francisco Remains In The Purple Tier: The State’s ‘Health Equity Metric'

Christian Emmer
Flickr / Creative Commons
Covid shot


The state reduced restrictions on San Mateo and Marin counties this week, but not on San Francisco despite similar COVID-19 numbers, and this has to do with California’s tier system.


The purple tier means lots of businesses are closed, and red is less restrictive. Most of the state has been purple since mid November. 

Counties can move from the purple to the red tier if their coronavirus caseloads steadily drop andthey meet other requirements. 

Although San Francisco continues to report lower new case rates and positive tests than any other county in the Bay Area, it remains in the purple tier. This has to do with something called the health equity metric. 

That’s a state calculation showing the impact of COVID-19 on neighborhoods with disproportionate inequities. These neighborhoods house many essential workers and often overlap with communities of color.

To move into the state’s less restrictive tier, San Francisco would have to have a test positivity rate under 5% for two consecutive weeks. While most of the county is well below that, areas including the Tenderloin and Portola neighborhoods are above the threshold. And overall, San Francisco's health equity positivity rate jumped to 5.4% last week. This puts the county’s numbers just shy of the requirement, so it will have to wait a little longer to open up a little more.

Originally from the East Bay, Vivian began working in radio at KZSC in Santa Cruz. After KZSC she hosted a show at New York radio station Radio Free Brooklyn, covering artists and art local to NYC. As a KALW intern, she works on news and stories local the Bay Area. Outside of the radio station, she loves to visit galleries and museums and go on hikes.