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Amid coronavirus uptick, San Francisco pauses further reopenings

Pedestrians walk along Haight Street in San Francisco.
Pedestrians walk Haight Street in San Francisco. Although the city is in the yellow tier, it has decided to halt additional reopenings amid an uptick in coronavirus infections and hospitalizations.
(Luis Sinco / Los Angeles Times)

Continuing to take a conservative and cautious approach to the coronavirus pandemic, San Francisco city officials on Friday announced they will temporarily halt further reopenings because of an uptick in coronavirus infections and hospitalizations.

At a virtual news conference, officials said the daily number of new infections has grown during the last two weeks from 3.14 per 100,000 to 4.17. Hospitalizations of patients with COVID-19 grew from 21 to 37.

“We are proceeding with caution,” Mayor London Breed said. “Some of the decisions we made will still move forward, but others will need to take a pause until we see an improvement in the numbers.”

San Francisco’s go-slow approach to reopening has made the city the first major urban center in California to enter the state’s yellow tier, signaling the risk of infection is minimal. Even so, the city has chosen to follow its own metrics rather than reopen sectors that the state otherwise permits.

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“San Francisco is in a good place,” Breed said.

San Francisco shut down early in the pandemic and later limited reopening. Now the city is the first urban center in California where the risk of infection is rated as minimal.

But “the last thing we want is to go backward and tell a business or a school they can reopen and then tell them they have to close,” she added.

As a result, indoor restaurants, places of worship, movie theaters and museums will remain at 25% capacity. Indoor pools, bowling alleys and locker rooms at fitness centers will remain closed.

Dr. Grant Colfax, the city’s public health director, said the city expected an uptick in infections after allowing schools, playgrounds and indoor dining to reopen. Adjustments must be made to take account of that, he said.

“We don’t want the virus to get ahead of us,” he said.

Breed urged residents to celebrate Halloween remotely — she said she planned to dress in costume and attend an online contest — and to avoid large gatherings on election night.

Yellow tier status allows San Francisco to reopen offices at 25% capacity as well as climbing gyms and additional personal services.

Without directly mentioning the possibility of election protests, Breed said San Francisco “plans to be ready for any situation” and warned that huge gatherings could spread the virus.

Breed, who does not have oversight over the San Francisco school system, has expressed frustration in the past that public schools have yet to reopen while private schools are resuming indoor instruction.

She said city officials were working with the school district to give them the tools to reopen safely.


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