On Thursday, seniors who generally eat lunch at Mission Neighborhood Centers discovered they will now have to pick up their lunch and eat at home. Photo by Lydia Chávez

We are updating this story throughout the day. (Last updated at 6:46 p.m.) 

With state officials advising late Wednesday against gatherings with 250 people or more and any non-essential gathering that does not keep attendees six feet apart, the Mission District is bracing for a new wave of cancellations. 

Up until now, small theaters and venues have said they will remain open, but that now seems unlikely. Earlier, the state policy restricted events with more than 1,000 in attendance.

“The state’s updated policy defines a “gathering” as any event or convening that brings together people in a single room or single space at the same time, such as an auditorium, stadium, arena, large conference room, meeting hall, cafeteria, or any other indoor or outdoor space.”

The full policy is here. 

Even before this announcement, the Community Music Center’s postponed its annual Field Day Performathon from the weekend of March 21 to June 6 and 7.  Ruth’s Table, an arts center for senior citizens, canceled its March programming. El Rio canceled its March 20 Comedy Returns show “due to the plague,” said Lisa Geduldig, the bar’s publicist. 

But venues like Z Space, the Gray Area, ODC and The Chapel are likely to also revise their schedules — but have not yet made any firm commitments.

UPDATE, 6:44  p.m.: Z  Space announced late Thursday that it is canceling all performances through March 31. 

 Z Space is deeply sorry to be cancelling performances through March 31, 2020. All ticket holders for impacted productions will be contacted via email or phone. 

Z Space offices are still open and staff will be available via phone and email. 

Manny’s on 16th and Valencia “is postposing a majority of in-person events over the [next] few weeks,” said Manny Yekutiel, the owner.  

The Marsh Theater on Valencia Street will continue programming, limiting shows to 50 attendees, according to a spokesperson. And the Victoria Theater on 16th Street, which seats 491 people, will continue its production of the “Full Monty” through the weekend as planned, a spokesperson said.

By the afternoon, the San Francisco Unified School District had suspended classes for three weeks starting Monday. “The goal of this recommendation is to prevent people physically coming together unnecessarily, where people who have the infection can easily spread it to others. This guidance does not apply to activities such as attendance at regular school classes, work, or essential services,” according to the guidelines on gatherings.

Update, 10 a.m. 

Business continues and everyone “still wants to be pretty”

Tanya Strader helps a customer. She’s washing her hands after she touches anything. Photo by Lydia Chavez.

Small businesses, especially coffee shops and eateries, are staying open — but taking extra precautions.

Tanya Strader, the manager of Ritual Coffee on Valencia Street, said the customer flow has taken a small dip but nothing significant. Still, staff members are taking extra precautions, such as wiping tables more often, having servers add milk to coffee, and “washing our hands anytime we touch something.”

The cafe was moderately busy, with around 15 to 20 customers, around 10 p.m.

Over at Pretty Pretty Collective, a hair salon on 22nd Street just of Mission, owner Georgia Rew said she’s been wiping down all her surfaces constantly. She’s had a few cancellations but nothing unusual. In fact, some days, she’s been slammed. “I guess everyone still wants to be pretty,” she said.

She predicted that may change if and when schools start closing down.

At the Revolution Cafe, barista Sam Leeper said they have live music every night and, so far, they were going ahead with the band scheduled for tonight. As usual, he rode the 33 Muni bus into work and he said it did not feel significantly less crowded. “What can I do? I can’t work from home,” he said. 

On a 49 Mission Street bus later in the morning, the bus seemed fairly full, but the driver said ridership was down significantly. 

Meanwhile, Walgreens at 23rd and Mission is completely out of hand sanitizer — and had just one pack of cleaning wipes in stock and a few containers of Lysol wipes. A customer service representative said, however, one can make their own hand sanitizer using aloe vera gel and isopropyl alcohol. Move quickly, because the aloe vera is also going fast.

Jan Gaviers, the manager at Walgreens, said they are still receiving orders of hand sanitizer, but they go fast. Two boxes with 24 units arrived this morning and by 10:30 a.m., they were gone. 

That, he said, is the norm since the coronavirus became a concern. “We get maybe four delivered a week, but they’re gone within a half-hour” of putting them on the shelf. 

They did have a few containers of Lysol wipes left, but as this reporter talked to Gaviers, the supplies diminished. Business, he said, has not fallen off and he estimates there are even more people coming into the store. 

One customer said she was going back to Buena Vista Horace Mann, where staff members are left purchasing their own sanitizers. “The District is not providing the cleaning supplies,” she said and asked that her name not be used. Luckily, she said, her school has an active parent group that is pitching in. 

Claudia DeLarios Morán, Buena Vista Horace Mann’s principal, said that the school district is providing cleaning supplies for its custodial staff, but additional cleaning materials for teachers are in short supply. She said parents are, indeed, trying to pitch in and “scrounging” for supplies at stores and in their homes — but they too are coming up short. 

“We’re doing what we can with what we have, but it’s probably not enough,” she said. 

The school district, so far, is keeping schools open.   

At Reem’s, the Mission’s first Arab bakery that opened earlier this week in the space once held by Mission Pie, Zaynah Hindi, the director of operations, called the timing “not ideal” but so far so good. 

“It’s our second day and we’ve been blessed with a lot of visitors,” Hindi said. Reem’s too had pulled all self-service items behind the counter and were doubling their vigilance on keeping tables and surfaces wiped down. She noted that their lunch service at the flagship location in Fruitvale has maintained a brisk pace. 

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Update, 11 a.m. 

Four new confirmed cases

The Department of Public Health has increased its tally of confirmed San Francisco coronavirus cases to 18 — up from 14 on Wednesday afternoon. On Wednesday evening, the San Francisco Unified School District announced that it would close Lakeshore Elementary for 14 days, after learning that four students there had respiratory illness. It’s unclear if those four students are the additional four on the list. The Health Department has not responded to our inquiry or sent out a statement.

Update 1:18 p.m.

Those most affected by the coronavirus protocols in the Mission appear to be senior residents — a group that has proven to be most vulnerable. At Mission Neighborhood Centers at 362 Capp St., seniors who would normally be sitting down to enjoy lunch with their friends had to pick it up and head home after the city’s Department of Disability and Aging Services, sent out a directive Wednesday calling for the modifications.

“From night to day,” is how Mary Alvarez explained the change in her life with the coronavirus outbreak. She can no longer sit around and eat lunch with her friends on Capp Street. Instead, she has to return to the place where she lives by herself. “You can’t have contact with people.”  At least, she said, she lives with her sister. 

Thelma Montufar, another senior picking up the lunch of pozole and tostados on Thursday, lives alone.  “It’s not good,” she said flatly of the new directive just instituted. “We can’t even stay here.” 

Mary Alvarez getting ready to leave with her lunch and a clothes donation from Old Navy. Photo by Lydia Chávez.

Lunch wasn’t the only activity affected. All the classes for seniors — computer, aerobic and many others — have been canceled until at least March 20, according to the directive.

Aurora Alvarado, health and aging & disability manager for the center, said they have between 60 and 70 seniors who use the center regularly.  “The center is for socializing, because seniors tend to live in isolation,” she said. They hope to mitigate some of the impacts by being in touch with their seniors by telephone. Anyone who needs one-on-one help with a letter or translation can still come into the office, she said.   

The Headstart program in the same Capp Street location generally serves about 400 students, but absenteeism has risen significantly, said Cyndee Nieves, the vice president of client services. “People are being cautious,” she said, and the center is encouraging caution so that others are not exposed to sick students. Wednesday, attendance was down by 90 students, she said.  

The program has called off all non-essential gatherings, such as field trips or parent-teacher meetings. 

Bethany Center, an independent living senior housing facility, is taking precautions as well.

Benson Lee, housing administrator at Bethany Center, said that they have been advising their 160 senior residents to practice social distancing.

“We’re struggling a little bit but for the most part what we’re saying is, prevention is our number one concern right now,” Lee said. A community meeting will be held today to address questions of residents regarding preventive measures in the housing center.

Lee said that they are trying to coordinate with medical providers to find possible arrangements to obtain medications and refills for senior residents who are limiting travel to clinics and public interactions.

Housing the most vulnerable population, Lee said that they are waiting for any announcement from public health officials to provide testing services to them.

But they are not just waiting around.

The center will start checking temperatures of people coming through their front doors. It has cancelled classes and workshops for the meantime as well.

Advisory posted outside Sheffield Convalescent Hospital.

Sheffield Convalescent Hospital on South Van Ness and 22nd Street posted a reminder on its front door saying that the facility is not allowing visitors to “protect the residents and staff” from risk of COVID19. They are advising visitors to call the facility instead to inquire about their loved ones living in the facility.

We will update throughout the day.  In the meantime, wash your hands. Here is a video from the World Health Organization on how to do so.

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I’ve been a Mission resident since 1998 and a professor emeritus at Berkeley’s J-school since 2019 when I retired. I got my start in newspapers at the Albuquerque Tribune in the city where I was born and raised. Like many local news outlets, The Tribune no longer exists. I left daily newspapers after working at The New York Times for the business, foreign and city desks. Lucky for all of us, it is still there.

As an old friend once pointed out, local has long been in my bones. My Master’s Project at Columbia, later published in New York Magazine, was on New York City’s experiment in community boards.

Right now I'm trying to figure out how you make that long-held interest in local news sustainable. The answer continues to elude me.

Julian grew up in the East Bay and moved to San Francisco in 2014. Before joining Mission Local, he wrote for the East Bay Express, the SF Bay Guardian, and the San Francisco Business Times.

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