At a virtual news conference on Tuesday, Mayor London Breed outlined The City’s tiered approach to reopening businesses, churches and some schools this month. (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)

Hotels, schools and more could soon be allowed to reopen in SF

San Francisco announced a reopening timeline Tuesday that permits hotels, limited church services, in-person schools and indoor personal services like haircuts.

Mayor London Breed announced a “a balanced and thoughtful” reopening timeline for September that begins today with allowing outdoor personal services like nail services, haircuts and massages.

Outdoor gyms and fitness studios can open on Sept. 9, as previously announced Friday.

Breed said more businesses can reopen in mid-September, including outdoor tour buses and boats. Other mid-September reopenings include hotels, kindergarten through sixth grade schools with approved health plans and indoor museums. Churches can allow one person at a time indoors for prayer and hold services outdoors limited at 50 people.

By the end of September, San Francisco intends to allow for indoor personal services to open, including hair salons, barber shops, tattoo parlors and body piercing services. Gyms can open with indoor one-on-one personal training and solo use of gyms and fitness centers. Also, churches can resume service with up to 25 persons indoors.

In October, The City plans to allow middle schools to reopen for in-person learning with an approved safety plan, followed by high schools in November.

“Since March, people have been struggling financially, mentally and emotionally, and being able to continue our gradual reopening of businesses and activities will help to ease some of that burden,” Breed said in a statement. “We remain committed to making decisions based on data and our local conditions with COVID-19, and our next steps take a balanced and thoughtful approach to reopening.”

The new reopening timeline comes following a spike in COVID-19 cases that had halted San Francisco’s previous reopening timeline. But cases are now in a downward trend.

Still, Breed cautioned everyone to follow health guidelines and do their part to slow the spread of the virus or The City could see another spike that would require her to halt the reopening.

“The last thing I want to do is tell you that we are going to be opening and then need to make changes and to start closing businesses once again,” Breed said at a virtual press conference.

On Friday, Gov. Gavin Newsom announced a new method for determining restrictions on reopenings in counties that included a four-tier color-coded system based on new cases per 100,000 and the positivity rate of those tested. The most severe restrictions are for those in the purple. San Francisco is in the red tier, just below purple, which allows more businesses to reopen than The City currently is allowing to open.

San Francisco’s red designation allows schools to reopen under state restrictions in two weeks, but The City is still requiring the waiver process, and only permitting elementary schools to open this month.

Some 53 schools have applied for waivers, including three charter schools, 13 parochial schools and 37 independent private or other religious schools. They comprise 9,679 students and 1,672 staff.

The waiver applications are now under review and will take two to four weeks for approval, city officials said Tuesday.

It is not clear how the city’s reopening timeline and new state designation will impact public schools.

Laura Dudnick, San Francisco Unified School District’s spokesperson, said in an email Tuesday they have been “preparing for a gradual return to a hybrid instructional model focusing first on our youngest students and students with disabilities in special day classes.”

But she did not provide a timeline.

“In order to reopen schools, SFUSD has several factors that need to be in place including having a testing plan, training staff, informing students and families of protocols, a minimum of three months supply of PPE for all participating staff and students, and labor agreements,” Dudnick said.

The City allows outdoor dining and take-out at restaurants but the reopening timeline does not set a time for when indoor dining could occur. San Francisco’s red designation permits indoor dining. “Indoor dining would be in a later date at this point because of the risk,” said Dr. Grant Colfax, director of the Department of Public Health.

The Golden Gate Restaurant Association, which advocates for restaurants in San Francisco, is asking city officials to establish a timeline for when indoor dining could resume, calling the absence of this activity on the reopening plan “not acceptable.”

Colfax acknowledged that “the state has removed many of the restrictions that previously prevented us from reopening low-risk activities and businesses.”

But he said, “We still need to move forward with a deliberate and gradual reopening as our infection rates remain high as do our hospitalizations.”

Colfax said The City is placing an emphasis on its own local data trends for “deciding whether we can reopen more and at what pace.”

“We must look at the local context,” he said. “Remember, the state guidance is broad brush.”

As of Tuesday, The City has confirmed 9,544 cases of COVID-19 since March and 83 deaths caused by the respiratory illness. There are 46 patients in acute care for COVID-19, down from the high of 75 on July 24, and 26 patients in intensive care units, down from a high of 38 on July 30, as of Aug. 30.

The City is seeing an average of 74 new confirmed cases of COVID-19 per day.

jsabatini@sfexaminer.com

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