On March 17, San Francisco Mayor London Breed issued a citywide shelter-in-place order. The Bay Area city had fewer than 50 confirmed coronavirus cases. By contrast, New York City didn’t take similar action for several days, and when it did shut down on March 22, the city’s five boroughs totaled more than 10,000 reported cases.
Staff writer Russell Berman recently wrote about Breed, under whose leadership San Francisco has apparently succeeded at “flattening the curve.” Berman joins James Hamblin and Katherine Wells on the podcast Social Distance to discuss the parts of the country where responses seem to have worked, and what has made the difference.
Listen to their full conversation here:
What follows is an edited and condensed transcript of their conversation.
James Hamblin: Russell, you wrote about San Francisco’s coronavirus response, which was uplifting to see. They’re actually flattening the curve.
Russell Berman: I wrote about London Breed, the mayor of San Francisco. She activated the city’s emergency-operations center in late January, only a short while after public-health officials in the United States even acknowledged that there was human-to-human transmission of the coronavirus. In late February, she became the first big-city mayor to declare a state of emergency, in San Francisco. She did so before there was even a single confirmed case in her city. Also, leaders in the surrounding Bay Area counties acted in unison to enact social-distancing measures. Their lockdowns went into effect on March 17, and that was when they only had a few dozen cases in San Francisco.