Mayor London Breed announced The City’s entrance into the less-restrictive COVID orange tier at a news conference at Rincon Plaza on Tuesday. 
Kevin N. Hume/
S.F. Examiner

Mayor London Breed announced The City’s entrance into the less-restrictive COVID orange tier at a news conference at Rincon Plaza on Tuesday. Kevin N. Hume/ S.F. Examiner

SF enters orange tier, reopening offices and outdoor bars

Breed: ‘I want to see the city jumping again’

San Francisco moved into the state’s orange tier Tuesday, allowing for the reopening of downtown offices with limits along with outdoor bars and festivals.

The new tier status, assigned by the state based on transmission rates, testing and a health equity metric, builds on San Francisco’s reopening momentum. Just three weeks ago, The City was moved from the state’s most restrictive purple tier into the second most restrictive red tier, allowing for indoor dining with limits at restaurants.

And city officials are already saying they could move into the state’s least restrictive yellow tier within weeks.

“I want to see the city jumping again,” Breed said, when announcing the orange tier status in The City’s downtown. “San Francisco is going to come alive.”

Nine counties are now in the orange tier, including the Bay Area counties of Marin, San Mateo and Santa Clara. Eight remain in the purple tier, 39 in the red tier and two in the yellow tier.

Breed expressed high hopes for a downtown revival, despite many companies embracing remote work during the pandemic. In the orange tier, The City will now allow downtown offices to open at 25 percent capacity beginning Wednesday.

“I think when we start to reopen more and more people are going to want to return to work and want to be around other folks,” Breed said. “We have a lot of dedicated companies here in San Francisco that are really truly committed to reopening their offices, to changing and making flexible work schedules, but ultimately I think most people can agree working from home is boring.”

In the orange tier, San Francisco will also permit outdoor bars and breweries and beginning in April will allow for the resumption of outdoor arts, theater and music performances and festivals for audiences of up to 50 people.

The City is also expanding capacity of already allowed reopened business activity with most increasing to 50 percent of capacity. Gyms can increase capacity to 25 percent up to 100 patrons.

Health officials are also working with the San Francisco Giants to allow spectators to go to Oracle Park for the home opener on April 9. Those details are still being worked out, according to Breed.

As Breed celebrated the orange tier and expressed optimism about economic recovery, however, she did strike a note of caution.

“We don’t want to get too comfortable,” Breed said. “There is still work to do. We don’t want to see another surge. We are proceeding with caution in how we open.”

Dr. Grant Colfax, head of the Department of Public Health, said people need to adhere to the guidelines to combat another surge.

The current data was a cause for celebration. Colfax said that just 35 patients are in the area hospitals for COVID-19, the lowest it’s been in four months. There are an average of 31 cases per day, compared to a high of 374 cases per day during the winter surge.

San Francisco has administered at least one dose of the vaccine to 37 percent of residents over the age of 16, or 283,156. The City is averaging about 8,600 vaccines per daily but could administer up to 20,000 with more supply, according to Colfax.

But Colfax said, “We are not immune to the fourth surge, despite these positive numbers.”

He pointed to Italy and states like Michigan, New York and New Jersey where cases are on the rise, likely “fueled by the variants that we know are in many cases more infectious.”

“We can see a finish line to victory in sight,” Colfax said. “We are not quite there yet.”

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