On Monday, Nov. 16, 2020, Mayor London Breed addresses the uptick in Covid-19 cases that has caused San Francisco to move to the state's second most-restrictive tier and initiate some rollbacks.

As Covid-19 cases continued to skyrocket on Monday, city officials said nonessential office space will close and gyms will drop from 25-percent to 10-percent capacity. 

The high case numbers — an average of 97 new cases a day, compared to 32 in October  — means the state will push San Francisco back two tiers to the red tier, which is the second-most restrictive. With that, comes the need for closings.

“It looks like to be a significant uptick that we have to pay attention to,” Mayor London Breed said today at the press conference with Director of Public Health Dr. Grant Colfax. “Sadly, that means a number of things needs to go off the table.”

Added Colfax: “Let me be clear: San Francisco is in the midst of a major surge of Covid-19 cases. It is sobering that we have reached this point again.”

Colfax said that San Francisco County used to be designated as a “yellow tier” in the state, which signaled minimal transmission. A county is defined as “red” when there is “substantial” transmission. “This indeed is indicative of how fast the virus is spreading in our city,” Colfax said. 

The R number — which measures how quickly the virus is reproducing — also increased since last week. On Nov. 10, it was 1.2; ideally, the city’s rate should be below one. Today, Breed said it is 1.3, but others have that number at 1.49.

With a case rate “higher than ever before,” the health director suggested the city can go from 13,000 cases to 14,000 cases in only 12 days. It took 18 days to get from 12,000 to 13,000 cases.

The case rate also bumped up from 9 cases per 100,000 people last week to 10.4 cases per 100,000 Monday, which by Public Health Department standards renders it on a “high alert” level. There have been 13,756 total covid cases in San Francisco and 156 deaths. 

Dr. Grant Colfax, the director of public health, shared a screen showing the increase in Covid-19 cases during a press conference on Monday, Nov. 10, 2020.

As the city and Health Department has seen since April, most of the virus transmission is occurring in underserved neighborhoods like the Mission, the Bayview, the Tenderloin, and the Excelsior. At present, the Mission and the Bayview are where the most new cases are concentrated, with 250 total cases and 190 total cases confirmed in the past month respectively.

One way the city is addressing that is by implementing a new CityTest SF testing site, which opens tomorrow at the Alemany Farmers’ Market. It will replace the SoMa testing site, operate five days a week and administer up to 500 tests per day, Breed said.

“When I look at the maps of the areas where the cases are, we had to make an adjustment,” Breed said. “We know that [Alemany Farmers’ Market] covers the OMI.”

It’s unclear why the city has taken months to make the change, since the maps have indicated a high incidence in the southeast neighborhoods since early summer. 

However, a high number of cases are now also cropping up in the Marina and Presidio Heights  — two neighborhoods that have generally avoided surges earlier this pandemic. This could be due to complacency in following health guidelines, Breed and Colfax suggested. 

Lax behavior can be detrimental not only to the city’s health, but to its economy, Breed said. 

She mentioned the tough rollbacks the city announced Nov. 10: gyms and movie theaters had to reduce capacity to 25 percent or 50 people by Friday at 11:59 p.m. High schools not already reopened also had to freeze plans to shift to in-person learning. Elementary and middle schools already reopened remain so for now. 

“It pains every time I have to make an announcement to close a business,” Breed said, talking about the elimination of indoor dining. “What that meant was not only layoffs, but a lot of lost revenue, because of the food they were no longer able to use. When you think about some of the sacrifices people are making, that’s what makes me continue.”

A couple of small gyms in the Mission have already operated with few clients, like Hit Fit on Harrison Street and Trainability on Valencia Street. But for others, the change will be harrowing.

“It is just really disheartening. We were finally getting back on our feet. Now having to reduce back to 10 percent is really sad,” said Danielle Repetti from Iron and Mettle on Valencia Street. “Businesses are stuck between the city and landlords, [and] they still have to pay rent. [I’m] thinking this will be the end for a lot of businesses.”

The mayor also acknowledged the disproportionate effect on the Latinx community, and said, thanks to city “investment” —  which has yet to be delivered to some organizations working within those communities — that community has seen a “real difference.” Latinx residents are 15 percent of the city’s population, but have consistently made up close to 50 percent of all cases

On other fronts, the city has maintained its progress or is doing well, Colfax said. Hospitalizations appear to be stagnant since last week; at present, 38 people are hospitalized and there is sufficient hospital room according to the health department’s data dashboard

That could quickly change, though, he cautioned. So, as Thanksgiving comes around, Colfax pled with San Franciscans to nix any holiday traveling. He said that he “strongly” advises against gathering, but knowing that inevitably some people would, he urged that people limit their parties to six people and to do so outdoors and masked. 

“The best way to celebrate this year is virtually, and giving your friends and family the gift of good health,” he said. 

Breed emphasized this as well, warning that practices now can lead to consequences around Christmastime and to cut back on large family dinners. 

“This is me sounding the alarm,” Breed said. “Asking to make sacrifices and be sure that our behavior and what we do helps to avoid circulating the virus in the first place.”

This story initially described “red” as “the second-least restrictive tier” when it is the second-most. 

Mission Local reporter Clara-Sophia Daly contributed to this report.

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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 on local news and immigration. She is a proud Chinese and Filipina American. She has a twin brother that (contrary to soap opera tropes) is not evil.

Follow her on Twitter at @AnnikaHom.

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  1. ‘It’s unclear why the city has taken months to make the change”
    It’s clear.
    The city organization and our recently re-elected supervisor are a few pints short of a gallon.
    Check that – a couple of quarts.

    It was predicted here in the comments section a couple of weeks ago by your’s truly that a spike was forthcoming as the backbone of our labor economy started filtering back throughout The City. The Latinx workers spiraling forth from the hardest hit area.
    Now getting smacked hard again.

    How is it possible that myself – not that bright – could see this coming and the aforementioned could not?
    Rapid testing for all needed to be at 16th and 24 BART plazas months ago.
    7 days a week.
    Dawn to dusk.
    Instead we got some short term “test” programs.

    Well – Hillary got voted back in – as if we had a choice.
    Soviet style – with no opposing candidate.

    Our City government is as disheveled in their response to this crisis as the idiot in the White House.
    Nobody is held accountable in this town – ever.

    1. I agree with Carlos. Not only is he a man of vision regarding Civid19 but also a proud member of the GLTBQ community. Gets freaky at the gay beach aka Dolores Park.

  2. Totally predictable, given the City’s random and haphazard testing regime, and minimal efforts at contract tracing and isolation. Instead we got a “reopening” based on a hope and a prayer.

  3. Last year, when Jon Jacobo was repping Elberling at TODCO (where JJ works) for their SOMA job housing linkage measure, I mentioned online that Jacobo was “pimping” for Elberling.

    This elicited a torrential response from the hack parade, claiming that pimp was a derogatory term for Latinx. I’d never heard that trope before, but they’d introduced it so now I have to try to forget it. Point being, confronted on a matter of policy, the identitarian hack parade grasps at identity politics retaliartion and shunning with zero basis.

    The Latinx nonprofits, of a culture that thrive in calling out, shunning and banning, were silent as Ronen performed white supremacy at young POC organizers in August over Defund SFPD Now. Had anyone who crossed them made similar comments, the identitarian cadres would be swarming all over them to call out, ban and shun powerless individuals. When it comes to a powerful white lady with resources they covet, then chivalry rules and discretion is the better part of valor.

    During the HIV/AIDS epidemic, the SF DPH mandated that the gay bath houses close. This was easy because we were marginalized before the pandemic and further marginalized during it.

    Today, the Mission is a hot spot for covid19 transmission. Yet nobody in power is contemplating adopting the HIV/AIDS approach to temporarily breaking up congregate living situations. All we get is testing and more testing after the fact. Alemany is also so inconvenient to all of Bayview, Hunter’s Point and the Mission as to be an insult. At this rate, that Breed’s “investment” in these groups will end up saving zero lives.

    What are these “community groups,” city funded nonprofits granted political dominion over a people or place, going to do to actually connect with real live human beings at risk their communities to intervene where the virus is spreading to stop the spread, not simply determine how bad things are with testing?

    1. Unfortunately the Latino Task Force is not (yet) a city-funded nonprofit. But they are definitely putting their lives on the line and their feet on the ground and connecting with the residents of the Mission in ways otherwise impossible for the City bureaucracy. As San Francisco learned in 1918, the key controlling a pandemic is community-level organization. Your arguments about City-funded nonprofits in the Mission may have been appropriate 40 or 50 years ago, but the Latino Task Force represents a new generation acting in a wholly different context. As the gay community was shunned in the early years of the HIV/AIDS crisis, so the Latinx community has been ignored for most of this year (the data don’t lie). And I agree, as does everyone I think, that testing is not enough, which is why the Community Wellness Teams are sorely needed. As for the Alemany Farmers Market site, it sure beats the SOMA site, but more low barrier access (i.e. walk up) still needed if it’s going to serve the population it’s intended to serve.

      1. Yet here we are, possibly more than half way through the pandemic (if vaccines pan out) and the Latinx Mission remains ground zero. All of these city funded agencies, all of these progressive supervisors, all of that federal funding and all we get is deteriorating stasis.

        This is similarly to how the affordable housing nonprofits have run the table on housing and land use, but decades later have precious little to show for it. The Mission has fallen further behind on housing and land use, even with the recent spate of projects.

        I’m not seeing how the neoliberal model of fig leaf nonprofits usurping community self determination is up to the task of addressing the multiple problems facing the neighborhood in anything remotely approaching real time. They get paid, others get sick and/or displaced.

        If testing is your thing, why haven’t we seen testing set up at the BART stations where people live? How exactly do you get from the Mission to Alemany Flea Market without a car?

        We must do something.
        Here, I’ve got something.
        That is something, let’s do that.

  4. I think you mean the second MOST restrictive tier, NOT LEAST.
    Purple is the most restrictive, red the second most restrictive. Orange is the second least restrictive and yellow the least restrictive.

  5. Red is the second *most* restrictive tier.

    Not sure why you are calling it the second *least* restrictive tier in the headline and the article. Orange is the second least restrictive tier and we somehow jumped from yellow to red without ever being orange.

  6. You corrected “least” to “most” in the headline but the mistake remains in the article.

    Have you no proofreader?

    1. Hey there — 

      We have a very small staff and we’re out, on the ground, covering these stories. Occasionally we miss things on the back end. Maybe you missed the well-publicized decline of print media, but even large-scale publications don’t have as many eyes proofreading text as they did even a few years ago.

      I appreciate you letting us know about this mistake. I don’t appreciate when you cop an attitude. It’s not necessary.



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