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.
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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