• The Atlantic dubbed San Francisco “the city that flattened the coronavirus curve,” and called it a national model for the US on how to fight the coronavirus.
  • The article, published on April 12, focused on both Mayor London Breed’s early aggressive measures, as well as residents successfully following social distancing protocols. 
  • Ann Keller, a University of California, Berkeley associate professor, told Business Insider San Francisco could still fall behind in the next stage of the crisis, which will be about testing and tracing the coronavirus.
  • However, she didn’t rule the area out as a contender.
  • As of April 14, California has tested 190,882 people, and San Francisco has had 15 deaths, according to data from Johns Hopkins University.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories

San Francisco’s handling of the coronavirus has been touted as a national model for the United States by The Atlantic, but it might not continue to lead the way, according to one professor.

On April 12, The Atlantic published an article titled: “The City That Has Flattened the Coronavirus Curve,” referring to San Francisco Mayor London Breed’s quick and aggressive moves to contain the outbreak, which it said made the city “a national model” in fighting the pandemic.

Russell Berman wrote for The Atlantic that in late February, before a single case of the coronavirus had been confirmed in the city, Breed declared a state of emergency, and soon after banned gatherings of more than 1,000 people.

As of April 14, California has tested 190,882 people, and San Francisco has had 15 deaths, according to data from Johns Hopkins University.

Johns Hopkins University epidemiologist Emily Gurley told The Atlantic: “All evidence suggests that they are doing much better, and the simplest explanation for that is that they did take social-distancing measures very seriously and they did it early.”

Berman noted that San Francisco and the rest of California struggled more than states like New York to increase testing for the coronavirus, meaning a low number of confirmed cases might not be an accurate picture. But Yvonne Maldonado, a Stanford Medical School epidemiologist, told The Atlantic that signs on the ground, like hospital beds that weren’t full, backed up San Francisco’s measures.

Putting it more bluntly, Cyrus Shahpar, a director of global epidemics nonprofit called Resolve to Save Lives told The Atlantic: “Deaths are hard to hide.”

Despite The Atlantic article, University of California, Berkeley associate professor of health policy and management Ann Keller told Business Insider it was possible San Francisco’s Bay Area wouldn’t remain a leader in fighting the pandemic when the country moved to the next stage of the crisis, involving testing and tracing cases.

“As I understand it, California still lags other parts of the country in testing,” she said. “It is possible that another part of the country will emerge as the model for the rest of the country when it comes to setting up large-scale testing and contact tracing.”

San Francisco's Mayor London Breed speaks in 2019.

San Francisco’s Mayor London Breed speaks in 2019.

Stephen Lam / Reuters


Despite the lag, she said: “the six Bay Area counties are certainly contenders for who will lead in the next phase of the response.”

Keller also said the article highlighted Breed’s success in issuing the shelter-in-place order since decisions like this one could backfire.

“Sometimes, a competent public health response looks like an over-reaction because the intervention worked, preventing a worse outcome,” she said.

She said that Bay Area citizens could see the effects of a delayed response in other parts of the country, which probably increased support for Breed’s decision.

“Imagine if the six Bay Area counties were the only ones experiencing coronavirus. The mayors of those cities would probably be under fire for the economic hardship they imposed since there has been no shortage of ICU capacity in the Bay Area,” she said.

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