The Panhandle. April 26, 2020 Photo by Leslie W. Rabine

San Francisco and five other counties will begin a slight re-opening starting May 4, allowing construction to resume as well as a limited return of certain outdoor businesses, such as nurseries and golf courses.

“All construction activities, certain businesses that operate primarily outdoors, and some outdoor activities will be allowed to resume with specific conditions,” according to the regional order issued jointly by seven health directors in six Bay Area counties.

Bay Area residents will also be allowed to use shared outdoor facilities for recreational activities, such as golf courses, skate parks, and athletic fields — provided these places comply with safety and social distancing protocols. 

Recreational sports activities that require the sharing of equipment, such as tennis and basketball, are still not allowed, unless all participants already live with each other.

Moreover, playgrounds, gyms, climbing walls, picnic areas, dog parks, pools, spas, and barbecue areas will remain closed. 

Those businesses that can resume, with social distancing, include wholesale and retail plant nurseries, agricultural operations, garden centers, landscaping and gardening services, flea markets, and environmental site remediation services.

The order clarifies that outdoor businesses “do not include outdoor restaurants, cafes, or bars.”

The order also said the counties may relax restrictions on childcare and related programs, depending on what the state does. The current order continues to only allow childcare services that provide care to children of those working in essential, governmental, and outdoor businesses to remain open.

To reopen further, the city will be looking at COVID-19 hospitalization trends; hospital capacity; personal protective equipment supply; testing capacity; and contact tracing ability.

Sheltering the homeless population

City officials also announced at the 1 p.m. press conference that, in addition to moving vulnerable populations and first responders to hotel rooms, they are also opening up 29 Recreational Vehicles (RV) and 91 trailers in Pier 94 to specifically shelter homeless residents from District 10, which includes Bayview-Hunters Point and the southeast part of the city.

Trent Rohrer, the director of the Human Services Agency, said that RV-dwellers will be provided similar on-site medical assistance, regular meals, and animal care to hotel dwellers.

Rohrer also reported that the city has contracted with 19 hotels with a total of 2,741 hotel rooms to date. The city is currently negotiating with 14 more hotels that could provide additional 2,153 rooms to the effort. However, Rohrer reiterated that these are not yet guaranteed contracts and that negotiations may still fail.

Furthermore, Rohrer said they also have 643 beds available in congregate sites to shelter homeless individuals who have recovered from COVID-19 and have completed quarantine. Mayor London Breed further noted that city workers are identifying locations for Safe Sleeping Sites in the city where the homeless population living on the streets may be able to minimize the risk of COVID-19 infection and community transmission.

Funding for workers

Breed also announced in a press release that more than 100,000 employees in San Francisco will be able to withdraw funds from their SF City Option Medical Reimbursement Accounts (MRA) to use for “necessary expenses such as food, rent, and utilities during the declared local emergency, in addition to eligible health care expenses.” 

These accounts have a total of  $138 million in available funds or about $1,300 per covered employee.

Breed also mentioned during the press conference that they have identified around $6 million of additional funding that will be provided to low-income families and undocumented immigrants who have been laid off. 

Affordable housing projects

On behalf of the Board of Supervisors President Norman Yee, Mayor Breed announced that they have introduced legislation to move ahead with the Balboa Reservoir Project, which would provide thousands of jobs and 1,100 new homes — half of which will be affordable housing — for low-income families, teachers and staff from the City College of San Francisco. The housing project is adjacent to the City College campus on Frida Kahlo Way and Ocean Avenue in the Balboa Park area.

Testing and COVID Indicators

Dr. Susan Philip, the director of Disease Prevention and Control Services at the Department of Public Health, said that the extension of the stay-at-home order renews “our commitment to the fight” against the coronavirus.

She reported that the city has collected over 18,000 test results and is able to test anyone with any COVID-19-related symptom or those exposed to confirmed cases.

Philip said that the city has a capacity of 4,300 tests per day, and is planning to test next in congregate settings.

“Until last week, we were having real challenges with our supply of testing specimen collection materials to do the tests,” Philips said. “That has improved and so now we are able to ramp up testing.”

SFPD updates

SFPD Chief William Scott reported “a couple of shootings that are very concerning” have occurred in the past week, including “over 100 rounds” of gunshots fired in the Bayview-Hunters Point area. Scott said that no one was hit.

He also said that the police have seen an uptick in burglaries, particularly with commercial establishments, and have recorded 34 bookings because of it. Scott also highlighted incidents where four elderly women over the age of 65 were robbed at gunpoint.

Scott further noted that there had been 14 homicides this year in the city, which is two homicides more than the count this time last year. Only 41 homicides were recorded in San Francisco in 2019 — the lowest tally since 1963.

Despite these worrisome cases, Scott said that police are still seeing fewer crimes every week. This week, the police recorded a 19 percent decrease in overall crime and a 34 percent decrease in property crimes than the week before.

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  1. A stunning statistic: If you compare the Covid-19 death rate of Sweden with no lock down and basically business as usual to the Covid-19 of San Francisco that initiated an early lockdown, you see that the Swedish Covid-19 death rate is 11.5 times higher. Comparing the Sweden to the entire state of California which initiated a lockdown a little later, you see that the Swedish death rate is 4.9 times higher. We should be thankful for the intelligent leadership of the mayor, the governor, etc.

    1. Breed literally saved hundreds, if not Thousands of lives. I understand Santa Clara wants to yammer on about how they were actually the first to issue the shelter in place orders or that it was agreed upon by all 6 counties and she jumped the gun, but lets not lose sight of what happened here: SF is the second densest city in the US after NY, and yet our death rate and case rate is miniscule compare to other cities of similar size and even less, throughout the country. It is not hyperbole to say that many people in this city would be dead if she had not made that decision when she did.

    2. David Hamburger,
      I so what agree with you, but your sounding like President Donald Trump. No idea is SF and Sweden will have similar or different numbers. Too early in the game, maybe , we are just avoiding the inevitable and 250k will die from Covid19 next year. We have no idea what the future holds. David, this pandemic doesnt have an on and off switch like you think. STAY SAFE, STAY WELL. BERNIE 2020 BABYYYYY