An employee handles to-go orders at Sea Breeze Cafe in the Sunset District. Restaurants across The City had hoped to reopen indoor dining but rising coronavirus cases have delayed that reopening date indefinitely. (Shandana Qazi/Special to S.F. Examiner)

Return of indoor dining put on hold due to rise in coronavirus cases

San Francisco will no longer allow indoor dining to reopen next week as previously planned after city officials warned COVID-19 is threatening to get out of control.

Mayor London Breed and Dr. Grant Colfax, director of the Department of Public Health, officially announced the decision Tuesday during a virtual press conference, although restaurateurs had largely expected the news last Friday.

They will no longer be allowed to reopen on July 13 as The City said they could last month, and the same goes for outdoor bars. The announcement comes on the heels of an increase in diagnosed cases of COVID-19 in San Francisco and throughout the state. Gov. Gavin Newsom last week ordered the closure of indoor dining and bars in other California counties whose case increases were more concerning than San Francisco’s.

On June 26, after The City saw a spike in cases, Breed halted plans to reopen a number of other businesses like massage parlours, hair salons, nail salons, massage parlors, zoos and museums that were scheduled to reopen June 29. The reopening of these businesses continue to remain on hold. City officials said they would provide another update later this week on the reopening status for these businesses.

“Unfortunately with what we are seeing, we have no choice,” Breed said. “We are living in COVID.”

When The City began reopening in May, after coming under a shelter-in-place order on March 17, the rate of people testing positive was 3.5 per 100,000 people. Today, the rate is 6.1 per 100,000 people, which is about 53 new cases a day. Hospitalizations have also shown a troubling increase of 25 percent in the past seven days, although the city officials say they have plenty of hospital beds remaining to treat patients.

Laurie Thomas, the executive director of the Golden Gate Restaurant Association, which represents the interests of restaurants in San Francisco, said she was expecting the decision and told businesses last Friday not to start rehiring staff or purchasing food to prepare for indoor dining service next week.

“Although this is clearly both a disappointment and a financial blow for our industry, our biggest concerns remain with the health of our workers, patrons and residents of the state,” Thomas said.

Thomas said that “we are encouraged that outside dining is still allowed” but she said that “restaurants cannot survive only on take out and outside dining.”

Breed said that “if we see the numbers stabilize or decline in any way we will reevaluate.”

Since the pandmic began, San Francisco has confirmed total 4,020 cases of COVID-19 and 50 deaths, as of Tuesday.

Colfax said that The City has to postpone reopening otherwise the infection rate could soar.

“We have time. There is a window now for course correction,” Colfax said. “But if we don’t do it and we don’t do it quickly we could be looking at a surge of illness that goes well beyond what we are prepared to handle.”

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