Dr. Grant Colfax, director of the San Francisco Department of Public Health, announced “aggressive” new recommendations for “social distancing on Friday to prevent the spread of novel coronavirus. (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)

SF officials urge residents to limit outings, avoid large gatherings to prevent spread of coronavirus

St. Patrick’s Day Parade among events being canceled due to health concerns

A day after San Francisco had its first two confirmed cases of coronavirus, city officials on Friday issued “aggressive recommendations” for “social distancing” to reduce the spread of the disease.

In other words, residents are being asked to stay home as much as possible, and avoid large gatherings. And private businesses are advised to cancel things like athletic contests and music concerts.

City Hall is heeding its own advice and cancelling the annual St. Patrick’s Day Parade, city officials said Friday. This weekend’s Mission Sunday Streets, when roads are shutdown to vehicles and people gather on them, is also cancelled. The San Francisco Symphony cancelled all its concerts until at least after March 20.

But not everyone plans to follow the new recommendations issued by the Department of Public Health along with Mayor London Breed and the Department of Emergency Management.

To read the recommendations click here.

The Warriors said Friday in a statement that they were aware of the department’s new health recommendations but “tomorrow’s Warriors game against the Philadelphia 76ers at Chase Center will continue as scheduled.”

“The health and safety of our employees, fans, players and the community at large has been, and always will be, a priority for us,” the statement said. “We have existing health and safety protocols in place that we will continue to prioritize.”

They also said that they will add more safety measures like extra soap in the bathrooms and “using hospital-grade disinfectant spray throughout the arena.”

The seven new heath recommendations “will cause changes in behavior for systems and individuals” and “are meant to disrupt normal social behavior, because the virus thrives under normal circumstances,” the announcement said.

The recommendations are in place “for an initial period of two weeks” and are expected to change “since this is an evolving situation.”

“Functions that are essential to an individual or their family, such as getting food, traveling to work, or providing for a sick family member, can be continued,” the announcement said.

Those who are considered vulnerable populations, such as those aged 60 and over or with health conditions like heart disease and weakened immune systems, should limit outings and not attend gatherings of about 50 people or more “unless essential.”

“If you can telecommute, you should,” the recommendations said of this population.

The Recreation and Parks Department announced that it would close the Golden Gate Park Senior Center and cancel all senior programming citywide for the next two weeks.

Head of the Department of Public Health Grant Colfax said that “the virus needs people to spread.”

“It jumps from person to person, so by reducing the opportunity for that to happen, we can effectively slow the spread,” Colfax said.

Businesses are advised to suspend nonessential employee travel and “minimize the number of employees working within arm’s length of one another, including minimizing or canceling large in-person meetings and conferences.”

City officials are also recommending the cancellation or postponement of all non-essential events, like concerts, sporting events, conventions or large community events.

The same goes for schools. They should cancel any non-essential medium to large scheduled events and equip all classrooms with hand sanitizer and tissues.

While the San Francisco Unified School District closed Lowell High School on Thursday after learning a student’s parent had been diagnosed with the virus, Friday’s recommendations do not call for school closures. However, they do advise the development of a “plan for citywide school closures, and families should prepare for potential closures.”

Breed said that “these recommendations are informed by the best public health information available and guided by experts in our own health department.”

“They mirror the actions being taken in many other municipalities and are informed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines,” Breed said. “These are important steps to protect our public health and are concrete things all of us can do to keep our community safe.”

Colfax said during a 5 pm press conference at the Department of Public Health building that “if the plan works in San Francisco it may even seem like an overreaction because the virus spread will be reduced and fewer people will get sick.”

He acknowledged that “there will be unintentional hardships and sacrifices for our residents and businesses but it is the best thing for public health and to protect all of us from a worsening outbreak.”

Colfax said that taking these measures now is the best course of action.

“If we wait to take stronger action until we have multiple confirmed cases and deaths, the window of opportunity we have now will have closed,” he said.

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