At a press conference on Nov. 20, Director of Health Dr. Grant Colfax said that San Francisco may potentially hit the state's "purple" tier as early as Sunday as cases continue to rise. This photo was taken last month at the Latino Task Force testing hub on Alabama Street. Photo by Lydia Chávez

With Covid-19 cases accelerating, San Francisco could move to the most-restrictive state reopening tier as soon as Sunday, Director of Public Health Dr. Grant Colfax said on Friday. 

That means a curfew — and it means that gyms, movie theaters and places of worship would close. Additionally, indoor retail could drop from 50 percent capacity to 25 percent capacity, according to state guidance. 

On Thursday, the state announced all counties within the purple tier — affecting counties comprising 94 percent of California’s population — must abide by a curfew between 10 p.m. and 5 a.m., starting Nov. 21 and ending Dec. 21. 

If cases continue at the same rate, San Francisco, currently under the state’s reopening tier, will move up to the purple tier and, as a result, face the new restrictions, Colfax said. 

He stressed that moving to the purple tier was not a forgone conclusion. However, all health and reopening restrictions would be enforced approximately 48 hours afterward, “if and when” San Francisco gets to that point.

The potential closures underscore how swiftly covid can spread. Just last week, San Francisco was at the least-restrictive yellow tier because of its “minimal transmission,” but this Monday the state had pushed it to red as transmission became “substantial.”  

“This is indicative of how fast the virus is spreading in the city,” Colfax said. 

In a graph Colfax shared, he showed that weekly cases have nearly quadrupled since Oct. 12. At present, the city is averaging 105 new Covid-19 cases a day, breaking previous records from just earlier this week, when the Colfax and Mayor London Breed had announced the new case count was 97. 

At a press conference on Nov. 20, Director of Public Health Dr. Grant Colfax said that weekly cases have nearly quadrupled.

If the case rate has stayed above seven new cases a day per 100,000 people for two weeks, or if the positivity rate reaches more than 8 percent, the city will move to the purple tier and the restrictions will go into effect. San Francisco’s current citywide positivity rate is 2.01 percent, so a shift to purple would likely be caused by jumping case rates. 

So far, there have been 14,251 total cases and 156 deaths in San Francisco. 

New cases are mostly occurring in low-income and underserved neighborhoods, and have consistently hit the Bayview and the Mission the worst. By Friday, both these neighborhoods were experiencing their own surge. Currently, the Mission is reporting nearly 45 new cases per 10,000 people in the last 30 days; the Bayview is averaging 53 new cases per 10,000 people in the last 30 days. 

There have also been new cases at Single Room Occupancy Hotels. One on 30 Sycamore St. reported that two households had contracted the virus around the weekend of Friday, Nov. 13. 

Cases are also rising in neighborhoods where surges are more atypical. The Marina – now averaging nearly 36 new cases per 10,000 people a day in the last 30 days — and Presidio Heights — with 41 new cases by the same metric —  are both rivaling the high case rates seen in the highly impacted southeast sector. 

More reopening restrictions and a curfew is intended to decrease the amount of activity, and thus the transmission, Colfax said. But businesses are still reeling from earlier closings. 

“We’ve been off for six months, people want to work,” said Patrick Connely, the owner of Monaghan’s Bar in the Marina District. “I’m worried it’ll shut us down again.”

Already, indoor dining has been shelved, per an announcement Nov. 10. 

Read how you can get tested before and after the holidays

As infections soar, the director of health warned that hospitals could be severely impacted. At the current rate, Colfax said, he wouldn’t be surprised if “hundreds of San Franciscans were in the hospital” by December and early January, especially as hospitalization rates are beginning to exceed those in the summer surge. 

Still, Colfax expressed some optimism that the city might not reach the worst reopening stages. That greatly relies on residents abiding by the health guidelines, specifically as the holiday season and flu season descends upon the country. 

“We can change the course of this. Our individual actions can crush the curve,” Colfax said somewhat cheerily. He alluded to how San Francisco managed to maintain the lowest Covid-19 death rate per capita in a major metropolitan city. “This is San Francisco. We can do this.”

He said that means that no one should be traveling this holiday season, nor gathering with people outside of the normal household. Negative test results shouldn’t be used as a go-ahead, because people can get infected after they’re tested. 

Other studies have suggested that tests may not be able to detect the coronavirus if the test is taken too soon after infection. And, the lack of in-person celebrations doesn’t mean there can’t be festivities, Colfax said. 

People can use “social media. Send or post photos or what you are serving and doing in your immediate household. We can still connect,” Colfax said.  

And in general, people should keep adhering to public health guidelines. Colfax and Mayor Breed have noticed instances of people growing complacent and taking off masks unnecessarily, they said. 

“People need to move around less, and keep the mask on,” Colfax said. 

Annika Hom

Annika Hom is our inequality reporter through our partnership with Report for America. Annika was born and raised in the Bay Area. She previously interned at SF Weekly and the Boston Globe where she focused...

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