April 12, 2020 Photo by Lola M. Chavez

San Franciscans will now have to wear face coverings outside, while seniors and those with disabilities will be able to get a new transit card for highly discounted taxi rides, city officials announced today at the 1 p.m. briefing with Mayor London Breed and other top officials.

“Face coverings help to stop droplets that may be infectious, even if the person wearing the mask has no or mild symptoms,” said Dr. Grant Colfax, director of the Department of Public Health. “My mask protects you; your mask protects me.” 

As of Saturday, San Franciscans must wear face coverings when they take public transit and when they are in line or inside essential businesses. People walking or exercising outdoors are not expected to wear face coverings.

Colfax described the order as a precursor to reopening. “As we hope to be able to relax the stay-at-home order, by then people will already be in the habit of wearing face coverings,” he said.

Colfax emphasized that wearing face coverings is not a substitute to staying at home, practicing social distancing and frequent handwashing. He also reminded parents and guardians to not use face coverings for children under two years old to prevent any cases of suffocation.

In terms of updates on confirmed cases and hospitalizations, Colfax said that the first confirmed case in a jail was reported on Thursday. He did not provide which jail has the confirmed case. He also said that a “contact investigation is underway” to trace the inmate’s recent whereabouts.

As of April 17, Colfax reported 95 guest residents and 10 staff members at MSC South have contracted the coronavirus. While at Laguna Honda, the count remains at 19 confirmed cases — four residents and 15 staff — and no new cases since April 7.

As of the latest count, reported today, there are 1,058 confirmed cases from over 10,000 patients tested throughout the city.

Colfax said that “hospitalization numbers for COVID-19 positive patients have been holding relatively steady for the past week.”

There are 91 hospitalized patients with COVID-19, including 28 patients in the ICU. Additionally, 98 other hospitalized patients are suspected of having COVID-19. It is the highest count of COVID-suspected hospitalized patients since April 6 when 123 patients were in the hospital. 

Colfax reported that the city has 1,048 acute care beds, which is about 12 percent fewer beds since Wednesday, and 445 ICU beds available to meet demands of a possible surge.

Abigail Stewart-Kahn, the director of the Department of Homelessness and Supportive Housing, said that “there is no delay” in moving unsheltered individuals into hotel rooms on “a daily basis.”

“We have opened four hotels for the non-COVID homeless population in a very short period of time,” she said. “There’s another one opening today and we’re opening over the course of the next week in a rapid approach.”

Jeffrey Tumlin, San Francisco’s Director of Transportation, announced the “Essential Trip Card” for adults age 65 and over and for people with disabilities.

With SFMTA curtailing  Muni to 17 bus routes, Tumlin said that he is aware that this massive cut has impacted populations not covered by remaining bus routes in operation.

The Essential Trip Card “will subsidize about two to three round trips by taxi per month” or $60 worth of value, according to SFMTA. Eligible residents will only have to pay 20 percent of the cost of regular taxi fare and can apply by calling 311.

“If you have another means of making your essential trip, please choose to do so,” said Tumlin. He reminded residents that they want to make sure that frontline workers who do not have other means of transportation can take Muni without sharing the buses with many people.

SFPD Chief William Scott said that the vast majority of San Franciscans have been compliant with the public health orders. However, with 420 in a few days, Scott said that the police will be in “full force this weekend” and on the day of 420.

“Do not engage in 420 activities in the city and anywhere else for that matter,” he said.

Scott said that Golden Gate Park will be closed and fenced off to keep people out.

Outside of 420 concerns, the police have given 9 citations to those who have violated shelter-in-place and social distancing orders.

Although the police are “still seeing some challenges with burglaries,” Scott said that they are seeing overall decreases in crime this month. He also reported a 25 percent reduction or 130 fewer property crimes this week than the week before.

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  1. This is about as half ass as you can get. I appreciate people have to wear the mask inside public transportation, which very few people are on any longer, or inside grocery stores which I do still go so thank you. But far many more people are walking the streets, running the streets, cycling the streets and that’s where we need the protection most. I realize that Bill Scott our police chief does not wish to do any enforcement so to my mind this is nothing more than another feel good notion. Nothing more

    1. with respect, I think you are missing the idea of how to use laws. your supermarket is somewhere that you cannot help but be close to me. its appropriate to enforce that I am required to wear a mask because of that. But you don’t have to walk on my sidewalk where I am choosing to get some sun on my face. you can isolate yourself to just empty parks and backyards for your recreation. I should not have to worry about an officer engaging my freedoms just because of what you want, unless absolutely imposed upon us both, like in public transport or a store.

  2. I agree with Marco. Take a deep breath people. If walking down the street away from other people, and you don’t wear a mask it harms no one—including yourself. Virus particles are not just floating in the air ready to get ya. Please talk to a doctor if this is confusing to you. You only need a mask when it is possible for someone to spit, sneeze, or cough on you (within 6 feet) and it can go into a mucus membrane (eyes, mouth, nose). People act like it is the same as in Shanghai where most people wear masks because of pollution—a problem that results in air particles EVERYWHERE compromising your breathing (like the fires here in Nov 2018). People are losing their minds and common sense. So much judgement with no science behind it. Remember the WHO (still doesn’t) recommend masks for anyone other than those in highly contagious areas or people that are high risk (over 65). Masks don’t do prevent things 100% when in highly infectious rooms: that is why over 10,000 medical personal have Covid. They were wearing masks!

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