Daily routines, near Pier 48. Photo by Kerim Harmanci

As reported earlier today, public health officers from six counties today announced they will extend the Bay Area-wide shelter-in-place order through the end of May. 

The communique from the doctors in Alameda, Contra Costa, Marin, San Francisco, San Mateo, and Santa Clara counties as well as the City of Berkeley noted there will be “limited easing of specific restrictions for a small number of lower-risk activities,” but did not intimate just what this might mean.  

At a San Francisco press conference today, Mayor London Breed explained the doctors’ orders. 

“We are not out of the woods yet,” said the mayor. She warned against moving “too quickly” and referred to the 1918 Spanish influenza epidemic that rebounded and killed more people in a second wave of infection than it did initially.

Back in the present day, hospitalizations across the six counties have leveled off, but “prematurely lifting restrictions could easily lead to a large surge in cases,” Breed said. 

Dr. Grant Colfax, the director of the San Francisco Department of Public Health, said that the hospitalization rate may still rise if residents stop following public health orders.

Colfax outlined the progress the city needs to see before the Health Officer will lift the shelter-in-place order: a significant drop in hospitalization numbers for several weeks; increasing testing by two or three times more than the current testing rate; maintaining surge capacity in hospitals; and acquiring sufficient Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) for healthcare workers and first responders.

He said that any easing of the restrictions will come from the data and science that city health officials are analyzing. 

Breed and Colfax said they would offer details on any easing of the restrictions later in the week; presumably this decision will be a regional one,  as the six counties have been collaborating on the shelter-in-place orders since the start of the pandemic.

In other news, the mayor announced that both John F. Kennedy Drive in Golden Gate Park and John F. Shelley Drive in McLaren Park will be closed to cars to allow pedestrians and cyclists access while physically distancing from one another.  

The mayor warned that she did not want to see people driving to the park. Instead, she advised walking to your neighborhood park. “We don’t want people setting up picnics or playdates,” she said, adding that people still need to be mindful of physically distancing while in the parks. 

Vulnerable population  

Colfax said that more than 850 vulnerable people — those who are homeless, have chronic illnesses, or are over 60 years old —  have been moved to hotel rooms to self-isolate. 

Data released today by the Human Services Agency stated that of the 880 vulnerable individuals residing in hotel rooms, 259 are in quarantine and 621 are sheltering-in-place. It would seem that the 621 individuals have been placed in hotels proactively, prior to coming down with COVID-19 or being exposed to potential carriers. 

Colfax said that 134 people — or around 9 percent of the city’s confirmed cases — are people experiencing homelessness. There are also 123 cases found in skilled nursing facilities within the city, including 65 residents and staff infected at Central Gardens Convalescent Hospital in the Fillmore area.

The Department of Public Health is also collaborating with UCSF in the four-day testing in parts of the Mission District “to determine the prevalence of the coronavirus in one of the most densely populated sections of the city,” he said.

The testing, which began on Saturday and will continue through Tuesday, has tested over 1,700 people over the weekend, he said.

“What we will learn together will better inform our collective response and strengthen our current education, outreach, testing, and care efforts within the Latino community and the San Francisco community as a whole,” Colfax said.

Out of the 1,424 San Franciscans confirmed to be infected with COVID-19, 182 are from the Mission District. It is the area with the highest number of COVID-19 infections throughout the city, according to the city’s data tracker. Thirty-one percent of the total confirmed cases are also Latinos.

PPE and SFPD News

Mayor Breed also provided a public apology to the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) after saying on Friday that some PPE orders were confiscated by FEMA and were diverted to other locations. Mayor Breed clarified that the third-party supplier of PPE gave the city this false information and that FEMA is now investigating the supplier.

Mayor Breed emphasized that the other challenges she spoke of on April 24 in acquiring PPE still stand true, especially the “lack of coordination from the federal government.”

SFPD Chief William Scott also reported decreases in crime statistics in the sixth week of the stay at home order. SFPD recorded a 19 percent decrease in overall crime throughout the city, which includes 136 fewer property crimes and 142 fewer serious crimes compared to prior week of April 13-19.

Scott reminded residents should expect an increased visibility of the traffic company officers around the city.

“A few cars on the road is not a green light to speed or break traffic laws,” he said, reiterating the city’s effort to reach zero traffic fatalities by 2024.

He continued to encourage residents to report any crime by calling or texting 911.

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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.

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