COVID’s Not Over!

When COVID-19 first hit the streets of San Francisco in 2020, the response was dramatic. People with housing began to shelter in place, mutual aid networks sprung up, and tenants went on rent strike. While San Francisco publicly spotlighted its shelter-in-place hotel program, which offered private rooms to about 1,500 unhoused people, many unsheltered San Franciscans were left to fend for themselves as shelters closed down and services shuttered their doors. During the two and a half years that the program operated, Mayor London Breed’s administration continued its inhumane encampment sweeps, stealing homeless people’s belongings and pushing people from block to block. 

News headlines, the current administration, and the unmasked masses might have you  thinking—falsely—that COVID-19 is over, or at least more mild than it once was. Looking at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) transmission map, it looks like COVID transmission and hospitalizations are at low levels nationwide. This is a mischaracterization. This past May, the federal public health emergency ended, and along with it many people’s access to COVID testing and the mandatory reporting of cases from counties around the United States. The CDC transmission map continues to show low rates because it is based on COVID testing data, a distortion because many counties no longer report positive tests and because people are no longer testing for COVID due to lack of access.

The reality is that new, highly contagious COVID variants are circulating and driving an uptick in hospitalizations and deaths around the United States. Over 1 million people are now living with long COVID, and nearly all of our public health strategies to protect our communities have been abandoned to individual will. 

An independent COVID-safety group called the People’s CDC has been creating weekly updates to help inform people about the current state of COVID transmission based on wastewater levels. Testing wastewater for evidence of COVID gives us a much more honest snapshot of what is happening with the virus because it relies on the amount of viral matter found in our wastewater rather than relying on positive testing and voluntary reporting. 

While hospitalizations and deaths—both currently on the rise—have been emphasized as the measures of viral severity, what is less commonly talked about is the dramatic impact of long COVID. According to the CDC’s own Household Pulse Survey, 15% of people in the United States have experienced long COVID symptoms that lasted for three months or longer. Researchers at a Veterans Affairs hospital in St. Louis have also recently found that your risk of developing long COVID increases dramatically with every infection, regardless of your vaccination status. While for some these symptoms may be somewhat mild, other symptoms are severe for most. Long COVID can mean debilitating brain fog, myalgic encephalomyelitis/chronic fatigue syndrome or heart conditions like tachycardia. Many people are living with permanent disabilities because of this ongoing pandemic. 

In his excellent coverage of the impacts of long COVID, Ed Yong of the Atlantic writes “long COVID is a substantial and ongoing crisis—one that affects millions of people. However inconvenient that fact might be to the current ‘mission accomplished’ rhetoric, the accumulated evidence, alongside the experience of long haulers, makes it clear that the coronavirus is still exacting a heavy societal toll.”

While COVID continues to harm our communities, most of the protections we once relied on for safety have been abandoned. Mask mandates have been dropped even in health care settings where high risk people must go for necessary medical care, access to more reliable PCR tests has been severely restricted, employers have begun forcing workers back into their offices, and vaccine boosters are only made available once a year. Homeless people in San Francisco who test positive for COVID are expected to stay on the streets or go into congregate shelters, as the isolation and quarantine rooms once offered to people without the resources to recover at home have been restricted to specific subsets of the homeless population

The CDC recommended new vaccine boosters on September 11, and San Francisco will have boosters available for anyone 6 months and older in a matter of days. You can find information on how to get vaccinated for free at

Masking, air filtration and vaccination are still our best protections against the ongoing pandemic, and we also know that individual action will never be enough to weather COVID’s impacts. Below are some opportunities to advocate for increased protections that could help protect our communities. 

Take Action:

  • Wear a mask! Tell your friends why you are masking, post photos of yourself masking on social media, and advocate for widespread masking to support our communities!
  • Demand that mask mandates get reinstated in health care facilities: for access to free PCR testing and COVID reporting: