COVID-19 Cases and Deaths by Race/Ethnicity
Advancing racial equity is one of the City's core values. We are committed to tracking COVID-19 data by race/ethnicity and analyzing disparities to better serve those who are disproportionately impacted by COVID-19.
While we track many population characteristics of COVID-19 cases and deaths, race and ethnicity are particularly critical because of the long-standing inequities and systemic racism present in San Francisco and across the United States. Read more about the importance of racial equity on the San Francisco Office of Racial Equity’s webpage and find more resources in their COVID-19 Racial Equity Toolkit.
COVID-19 and Racial Disparities
COVID-19 has disproportionately impacted communities of color in San Francisco and across the United States. There is no biological, or genetic difference in COVID-19 risk by race, nor are people of different races engaging in different prevention measures (studies have shown that white, Latino/a, and African American households engage in the same prevention behaviors).
COVID-19 is disproportionately impacting communities of color because of a long history of institutionalized racism and structural inequities. Systemic racism and structural barriers to education, jobs, home ownership, and health care impact current housing conditions, job opportunities, and many other social determinants of health. These social determinants of health are closely tied with many COVID-19 risk factors (like living in crowded housing, being an essential worker, and having pre-existing health conditions). Read more health inequities and the social determinants of health.
In order to measure which groups of the San Francisco population are disproportionally impacted, we first compare the race/ethnicity makeup of COVID-19 Cases and Deaths with the entire San Francisco population.
A comparison of cases, deaths, and the SF population is shown below. If all racial groups were equally impacted, the blue bars would be equal to the grey bars. A comparison of cases, deaths, and the San Francisco population already begins to highlight certain populations that are over-represented in cases or deaths (the blue bar is higher than the grey bar).
However, smaller populations may be harder to see in the tables above. We can more easily compare and see differences between groups if we calculate case rates.
Case rates are calculated by dividing the number of cases in each racial or ethnic group by the total number of residents in that group, and multiplying by 10,000. We can compare the case rates across all racial groups, and to the citywide rate.
Case rates show how each population has been impacted by COVID-19. Comparing case rates across groups highlights disparities. We cannot yet calculate reliable death rates because of the low number of deaths among most groups; however, we will calculate this rate if the number increases sufficiently.
Tracking Trends Over Time
The dashboards above show the cumulative, total impact of COVID-19 on different racial and ethnic populations in San Francisco. This cumulative view is incredibly important, but COVID-19 is dynamic and the spread of the virus in our community may change over time.
Tracking the number of new cases, the percent of new cases, and the new case rate by race/ethnicity every month enables us to see any changes. This also enables the City and our partners to understand how effective programs and interventions have been in curbing the spread of the virus in communities that have been dis-proportionally impacted.
The data and figures above show disparities by race/ethnicity. To protect resident privacy and minimize the risk of anyone being re-identified, we do not share additional cross sections of the COVID-19 case data (like race/ethnicity by age groups, for instance). Learn more.
Nonetheless, the spread and severity of COVID-19 is complex and affects residents differently based on overlapping layers of systemic racism, structural inequities, housing conditions, and other economic and environmental factors. This means that there are often key intersections of populations that are particularly impacted (essential workers in a specific age group of a specific ethnicity for example). It is important to keep this context in mind as you interpret the data above.
Community leaders, organizations, public health officials, City leaders, and many residents have been calling attention to racial disparities associated with COVID-19 since the beginning of the pandemic. In response to these disparities, there has been an enormous effort to bring resources and support to the communities of color most heavily impacted in San Francisco. Many of these efforts have been community-led and the City is proud to work alongside community partners in this work. Below we highlight just a few examples of the City’s response.
Collaboration with the Latino Task Force and resources for the Latino community
There has been an incredible community-led response to the disparities seen in the Hispanic/Latino community in San Francisco. The City is collaborating with the San Francisco Latino Task Force on COVID-19, which consists of more than 36 community-based organizations who are working to meet the diverse needs our San Francisco Latino population. The City also expanded funding for new support for health, housing, food access, workforce and small businesses for the Latino community.
Partnership with community on the City’s testing strategy
The City is partnering with community organizations to co-create testing events specifically for the communities most impacted. The City also supports a network of alternate test sites and community-partnered ‘pop-up’ and semi-permanent testing sites to focus testing capacity in the areas that need it most. The City's grant program for community organizations will sustain this collaborative effort to prevent the spread of COVID-19 and support residents.
Support for Black-owned businesses
COVID-19 has impacted more than just the health of many San Franciscans – it has also put many residents’ livelihoods at risk, with many small businesses being forced to close. In August, the City announced the African American Small Business Revolving Loan Fund, which will help Black-owned businesses and entrepreneurs access financial capital and zero-interest loans.
Equity and neighborhood initiatives
Race and geography are closely connected because of institutional racism and policies like redlining. This has resulted in segregation and many communities of color living in certain neighborhoods. Learn about COVID-19 case trends by neighborhood in San Francisco.
Because of this, many neighborhood initiatives align with the City’s efforts to focus on communities of color who have been disproportionally impacted by COVID-19. Within the City’s COVID Command Center, the City has a dedicated team of staff working on equity within our COVID response and neighborhood collaborations to bring support directly to those most impacted. This has sometimes taken the form of a neighborhood plan, like the Tenderloin COVID Plan. However, this team is also working on other ongoing community collaborations like community learning forums for the districts most impacted, and a multi-faceted outreach effort for communities of color.