Indoor dining shut down as SF rolls back reopening amid COVID-19 spike

Latest increase climbing at faster rate than previous summer surge

A spike in COVID-19 cases has prompted San Francisco to shut down indoor dining and roll back other reopening plans, Mayor London Breed announced Tuesday.

The increasing trend is particularly alarming since cases are rising at a faster rate than was seen during the previous surge of cases in the summer, city officials said.

“We are seeing an uptick,” Breed said at a virtual press conference. “It has forced our city to make some very hard decisions.”

Struggling restaurants were permitted to start serving indoors at 25 percent capacity on Sept. 30, but plans to allow them to serve at 50 percent capacity were put on hold late last month as cases continued to rise in San Francisco.

Now, indoor dining must cease altogether, effective 11:59 p.m. on Friday.

Gyms and movie theaters can remain open but they must reduce their capacity to the lesser of 25 percent of capacity or 50 people, a decrease from 100.

The City will also not allow additional high schools to reopen for in-person learning, but those that have can continue to operate.

Laurie Thomas, executive director of the Golden Gate Restaurant Association, said that “limited indoor dining represented the only real hope for many restaurants to survive the next three months.”

“We are very disappointed,” she said in a statement, warning of more restaurant closures and “significant job losses.”

While Breed has paused reopening plans in the past, this is the first time she has had to “roll back some of the gains that we have made.”

Dr. Grant Colfax, head of the Department of Public Health, said The City has to take these steps to mitigate the spread of the virus, which is surging again.

“We are averaging nearly 80 new cases a day now,” Colfax said, “up from just 32 new cases at the end of October.”

The surge in cases is a trend seen in other Bay Area counties and in California. California saw a 29% increase in new cases over the last week.

Colfax said San Francisco’s fall surge began on Oct. 21 and cases are increasing at a higher rate than the previous surge The City experienced in the summer.

“This suggests if we do not turn this around our fall surge will exceed our summer surge,” Colfax said. “If we do not pause and if we do not reverse, it is entirely plausible that we will face a situation where our health care system could become overwhelmed.”

Colfax and Breed said they will monitor the data and further restrictions may be needed. They called on residents to not get complacent but to continue to follow the health guidelines to wear masks and socially distance.

“We want to do everything we can to avoid reinstating a shelter-in-place order that would unfortunately shut our city down for the holidays,” Colfax said.

Since March, San Francisco has had 13,139 COVID-19 diagnosed cases out of 738,404 tests and 151 coronavirus deaths.

jsabatini@sfexaminer.com

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