Bay Area counties to shut down outdoor dining, non-essential businesses

Regional stay-at-home order to take effect Sunday, sooner than statewide order announced Thursday

San Francisco and other Bay Area counties are speeding up the implementation of the state’s new stay-at-home order by imposing it on Sunday, shutting down outdoor dining and many non-essential businesses.

The counties had anticipated having to impose the order announced Thursday by Gov. Gavin Newsom, which is effective when the intensive care unit capacity in a region’s hospitals drops below 15 percent, in mid to late December.

But Bay Area health officers said Friday they didn’t think it wise to wait.

“It takes several weeks for new restrictions to slow rising hospitalizations and waiting until only 15 percent of a region’s ICU beds are available is just too late,” San Francisco Health Officer Dr. Tomás Aragon said in a statement. “Many heavily impacted parts of our region already have less than 15 percent of ICU beds available, and the time to act is now.”

San Francisco joined Alameda, Contra Costa, Marin, Santa Clara and the city of Berkeley in implementing a regional stay-at-home order.

Mayor London Breed said it was the right call to opt into the restrictions early.

“We have to do everything we can to prevent this from being a holiday season that we look back on as one of sickness and death,” Breed said. “If we wait, we are just delaying the inevitable. If we wait one or two more weeks to have these restrictions placed on us, it will just mean our numbers will be higher and harder to bring down.”

The order requires the closure of personal service businesses like hair and nail salons, barbershops and tattoo parlors. Restaurants must cease outdoor dining and only do delivery. Drive-in theaters, outdoor playgrounds and skate parks must close as well. Grocery stores must reduce indoor capacity to 20 percent, from the existing 50 percent restriction. Other retail like hardware stores and bookstores can remain open with the 20 percent capacity restriction.

Hotels will have to stop taking tourist reservations, but can book stays for essential workers who are traveling for work purposes and provide rooms for those who need to isolate or quarantine.

The order in San Francisco goes into effect Sunday at 10 p.m.

Two counties will have the new regional stay-at-home order go into effect later than Sunday. Alameda County’s is scheduled to take effect on Monday and Marin County’s on Tuesday. The new restrictions will remain in place until Jan. 4, 2021.

Laurie Thomas, executive director of the Golden Gate Restaurant Association, said in a statement that The City’s “move to ‘jump’ the state is very difficult for our industry.”

“Although our foremost concern remains with the health and well-being of our community, we want to reiterate that with only takeout and delivery as options, we expect immediate negative effects to our industry including restaurant hibernations and/or more permanent closures, which will lead to increased unemployment,” Thomas said.

San Francisco’s Department of Emergency Management warned Thursday on Twitter that the latest COVID-19 surge “is the worst yet in San Francisco.”

“Within weeks, we may not be able to care for people at our hospitals,” DEM wrote. “Unlike previous surges, every hospital in California is under stress.”

San Francisco is averaging 142 new COVID-19 cases per day and has a 26 percent vacancy of intensive care unit beds.

Dr. Grant Colfax, director of the Department of Public Health, said the “urgent intervention” is needed “to dent the trajectory of this surge.”

“If we allow the virus to keep spreading at this pace, we estimate San Francisco, across our nine hospital systems, will run out of intensive care unit beds on Dec. 26,” Colfax said.

California saw 22,019 newly diagnosed cases of COVID-19 Friday and is experiencing an average of 15,306 new cases per day over a two-week period. Deaths increased to 145 Friday, up from the prior day’s 113.

COVID-19 patients in the state’s hospitals continued to increase Friday. There were reported 9,065 patients hospitalized and 2,152 patients in intensive care unit beds. On Thursday, there was a reported 86 percent increase in hospitalizations over a two-week period for a total of 8,831 patients, and a 67 percent increase of patients in intensive care unit beds for a total of 2,066.

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