San Francisco won’t use state’s ‘broad brush’ in reopening plan

A worker waits for customers at GoCar Tours in San Francisco.
A worker waits for customers at GoCar Tours in San Francisco. Tourism in the city is down more than 50% since March.
(Justin Sullivan / Getty Images)

After being given the green light last week to resume the operation of some businesses under California’s sweeping new reopening blueprint, San Francisco city officials on Tuesday said they will follow local health indicators rather than the state’s “broad brush” guidelines.

Under the new four-tier plan, San Francisco is in Tier 2, which means it could reopen restaurants for in-person dining with restrictions and immediately allow hair dressers and barbers to work indoors. The move comes in the wake of months of closures amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

But plans announced by Mayor London Breed and Dr. Grant Colfax, the city’s director of public health, reflect a more cautious approach. Hair stylists are not being allowed to resume indoor operations for roughly four more weeks, and indoor dining is not even on the table.

But officials did offer other reopening plans. In-person instruction for some K-6 students may be permitted in mid-September, and the city may allow in-person instruction for some middle schools in October.

Hotels will be allowed to reopen for tourism within a couple of weeks; indoor museums and the San Francisco Zoo will also open, at limited capacity. Outdoor tour buses and boats may also resume business.


At the end of September, barbershops, hair salons and nail salons may reopen for indoor services, subject to restrictions. Churches may reopen for indoor services at 25% capacity, with a maximum of 25 people.

City officials described these phases as goals that will be met only if COVID-19 infection rates, hospitalizations and other health indicators remain positive.

Breed expressed particular concern about the Labor Day weekend. She said the city saw a spike in new coronavirus cases after the Fourth of July and knows that residents will be tempted to gather with family and friends. But contact tracing has shown that those types of gatherings have sparked new infections, she said.

“The last thing I want to do is tell you we are going to be opening and then need to make changes,” she said.

Colfax said the new state guidelines use a “broad brush” to label the pandemic’s impact across vastly different counties — from small, rural communities to dense, urban San Francisco.

“Our reopening pace will be informed by our ability to manage the risk of more activities that may result in more cases and more hospitalizations,” Colfax said.

For example, he said, indoor dining poses too many risks right now, because diners and staff are together for long periods of time without masks.

On Tuesday, San Francisco reopened outdoor pools, indoor malls and outdoor hair salons, barbershops and other personal services, all subject to restrictions. Indoor funerals are also permitted but are limited to 12 people.