Breed: ‘More restrictive action’ needed to slow spread of COVID-19

San Francisco officials said Tuesday tougher restrictions will soon be imposed to slow the spread of COVID-19 while warning hospitals...

San Francisco officials said Tuesday tougher restrictions will soon be imposed to slow the spread of COVID-19 while warning hospitals could become overwhelmed if the rate of infections continues to increase.

New limits on indoor shopping capacity and the allowable size of outdoor gatherings could come as early as Wednesday, Dr. Grant Colfax, head of the Department of Public Health said in an online joint press conference with Mayor London Breed.

Officials are also considering implementing a quarantine for travelers, something Santa Clara County imposed last week.

“It’s not good. Cases are spiking. Hospitalizations are increasing quickly. Our infection rate is higher than it was at a point during the summer,” Breed said. “Our dangerous winter has arrived.”

She warned of “some real challenging months ahead.”

To slow the spread, Breed said, “We are going to have to take more restrictive action.”

Breed and Colfax did not specify the exact details, but said they are mulling over several restrictions.

Colfax said they are “looking at reducing capacity of indoor activities in certain institutions and businesses, further limiting the size of group gatherings, looking at potential travel quarantine orders.”

“Some of these orders could be issued as early as tomorrow,” Colfax said.

Breed said, “We are still working out exact details.”

She also said that San Francisco is not ruling out shutting down outdoor dining as was recently done in Los Angeles.

“Unfortunately, we can’t rule it out,” Breed said. “It could be a possibility.”

The announcement comes as San Francisco is already facing tougher restrictions from the state. Gov. Gavin Newsom said Monday he was considering a new stay-at-home order for purple tier counties, warning that the state’s health care system could become overwhelmed due to the ongoing surge.

Breed called Newsom’s remarks a “stark warning about hospital capacity in the state.”

San Francisco entered the state’s purple tier Saturday, triggering the shutdown of more businesses and a 10 p.m. to 5 a.m. curfew, which prohibits the operation of non-essential activities. There are currently 51 of 58 counties now in the purple tier, a state status that imposes the toughest restrictions to slow the spread of COVID-19.

The state reported its highest number of cases in hospitals Tuesday at 8,240, an increase of 453 patients from the prior day. There were 12,221 newly diagnosed cases reported Tuesday, slightly below the state’s two-week daily average of 13,123 cases.

“We are in the middle of a major surge that is threatening to overwhelm our health care system as well as the health care systems in the surrounding counties and the state,” Colfax said.

Colfax said that the “worst is likely yet to come” due to the level of recent holiday travel, which increases the risk of contracting the illness.

The City was seeing an average of 34 daily new cases on Oct. 22 but is now seeing 140. Hospitalizations have doubled in just 10 days, from 40 on Nov. 18 to 87 on Nov. 28.

“It shows no signs of slowing down,” he said. “If this trend continues we will see a hospital bed shortage around Christmas.”

But Colfax said if people follow the health guidance they could slow the spread.

“It is not inevitable,” he said. “We can slow the spread. It will not be easy.”

jsabatini@sfexaminer.com

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