San Francisco officials on Monday began disseminating a large stash of PPE, including some 1 million surgical masks, 600,000 face shields and 150,000 bottles of hand sanitizer, donated by the state of California.

Much of the state’s gift of personal protective equipment is currently being prepared for distribution to community organizations, which will then distribute to small businesses. Some supplies were moved to 701 Alabama St., the Latino Task Force Resource Hub, where local businesses can go pick some up. Mayor London Breed was on site to announce the distribution effort and pass kits out to Mission-based business owners. 

As Jose Alfredo Gamez, owner of Mission Street Oyster Bar, drove up, Mayor Breed handed him a large bag full of face masks and shields, while volunteers loaded a box with 20 hand sanitizer bottles into his trunk. 

“We’re passing them out directly to small businesses, at least a 30-day supply, to support our small business community in San Francisco,” Breed said. 

Just a few feet away, lines of community members waiting for food stretched for at least a block, going both east and west on 19th Street. 

The PPE comes only a few days after Gov. Gavin Newsom announced the state’s transition from the previous Covid-19 watch list system to a four-tiered color system. The new system places San Francisco County in the red, the second- most restrictive tier (purple is the most restrictive, then red, then orange, then yellow). 

Most retail and malls in other counties can now open at 50 percent capacity, according to state guidance, but the city’s guidelines are less permissive and have not yet set a date for retail and malls to reopen.

According to the city’s reopening plan, hair and nail salons along with barbershops and massage establishments are permitted to operate outdoors beginning Tuesday, but it is unclear how feasible that will be for many salons. 

When asked what Breed would tell business owners who cannot have any outdoor function, she said, “Unfortunately, there’s nothing we can do. We have to focus on really reducing the spread. … If I’m being irresponsible in my behavior and then I contract covid and start spreading it all over the place, it makes it impossible for these businesses that need to open.”

The Mission currently has the most cases of any neighborhood in the city, as well as the fourth- highest case rate, according to the city’s map of cases. Latinx San Franciscans also make up just over half of all cases, despite representing  only 15 percent of the city’s population, a fact speakers drew attention to during the press briefing. 

“This pandemic is hitting the Latino community particularly hard,” said Jon Jacobo, head of the Latino Task Force’s health committee, who attended the event at the hub. 

Referencing a study conducted by the Latino Task Force and UCSF, Jacobo pointed out that 90 percent of Mission residents interviewed said they did not have the luxury of working from home. 

Jacobo thanked the “volunteer army of people who love this city and love this community,” who he says is responsible for running all the task force’s operations. 

Several members of that volunteer army were walking around during the PPE event reminding attendees to social distance. And they played no favorites: At one point, two volunteers approached a group including the Director of the Department of Public Health, Dr. Grant Colfax, and asked them to step away from each other. 

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