Dr. Tomas Aragon said he emphathized with those who struggle with social distancing requirements. (Amanda Peterson/Special to S.F. Examiner)

Public health officials urge people to stay at home Fourth of July weekend

Increased social gatherings, reopening of businesses may be factors in rise of COVID-19 cases

Public health officials are urging people to stay at home during the fourth of July weekend. If they decide to go out and celebrate, officials are reminding the public to avoid crowds and practice COVID-19 precautions.

“Please social distance. Please wear facial coverings … this virus doesn’t care why you gather,” Health Officer Tomas Aragon told reporters at a press conference. “The virus has no values. It will exploit any type of gathering regardless of [their] purpose. That’s one thing people really have to understand: This virus is relentless and it’s unforgiving. And it will lull us into a sense of confidence.”

In recent weeks, San Francisco has seen an alarming spike in the number of COVID-19 cases. There were an average of 5.8 new cases daily for every 100,000 residents as of June 26, more than double the rate of 2.7 cases per 100,000 residents on June 12. The City had 3,603 confirmed cases of COVID-19 and 50 San Francisco residents died of the virus as of Monday.

The City delayed the reopening of hair salons, barbershops, nail salons and other businesses Friday due to the spike in COVID-19 cases, and Aragon said officials will only begin considering resuming the reopening after the July 4 weekend.

“This recent increase is very concerning to us,” he said. “And the reason why it’s concerning to us is that we don’t know whether this is going to be a one-time blip or whether this is the tip of the iceberg and we’re going to have a rapid increase in cases or hospitalization. It’s too soon to tell.”

Even though the hospitalization rate has soared, The City’s hospital capacity is faring relatively well, with 35 percent of acute care beds and 28 percent of intensive unit care beds available as of June 28. Thirteen prisoners from San Quentin State Prison and five patients from Imperial County have been transferred to San Francisco hospitals.

There are various factors that may have contributed to the rise in cases, Aragon said. For one, even though the Bay Area is reopening slower than the state, the number of social gatherings has increased. Infections in the workplace could be another factor, especially among essential workers. As workers return to crowded living quarters, they expose other residents to infections.

Some people, however, are growing resistant to COVID-19 precautions as the pandemic ensues. And Aragon empathizes with those who are struggling to adhere to public health guidelines.

“Sheltering in place is incredibly exhausting to people … we want to and need to spend time with other human beings,” Aragon said.

But wearing facial coverings, he explained, is an act of compassion and it’s critical that the practice becomes the social norm.

“At the end of the day, we’re going to have to coexist with this virus and we’re going to have to change our behaviors,” Aragon said.

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