SF slows down reopening after COVID-19 cases rise

Restaurants no longer permitted to increase indoor dining capacity to 50 percent

An uptick in COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations in San Francisco has prompted city officials to cancel next Tuesday’s planned expansion of the reopening of businesses and activities.

One of the biggest expansions was a move to allow San Francisco’s struggling restaurants to increase indoor dining capacity from 25 percent, which began on Sept. 30, to 50 percent. That is now on hold.

“Given what we’re seeing in our numbers here as well as across the country and the world, we want to make sure we continue our cautious and deliberate approach, which is why we’ve decided to pause before moving forward,” Mayor London Breed said in a statement Friday.

It was just last week that city officials celebrated becoming the first Bay Area county to move into the state’s least restrictive COVID-19 tier yellow. The City this week allowed people to return to “non-essential” offices up to 25 percent capacity.

In the past two weeks, however, the number of new cases has jumped from 3.14 cases per day per 100,000 people to 4.17 cases per 100,000 people. Hospitalizations of COVID-19 patients had dropped to a recent low of 21 people, but recently increased to 37 people.

Other reopenings planned for Tuesday that are being put on hold include the reopening of indoor pools, bowling alleys, indoor locker rooms and showers at gyms, an expansion of indoor capacity to 50 percent at movie theaters, museums and churches; and an increase in the number of people allowed at outdoor worship events from 200 to 300.

The City said it will still allow some limited reopenings planned, including outdoor live performances of up to six performers at drive-in settings.

Laurie Thomas, executive director of the Golden Gate Restaurant Association, said in a statement she was “disappointed” The City will not allow 50 percent indoor dining as planned, but “we understand the need to pause our reopening plan in order to keep cases and hospitalizations under control.”

“This is not the news we were hoping for, but we are thankful that indoor dining at 25 percent capacity is continuing, as is outdoor dining,” she said.

Dr. Grant Colfax, head of the Department of Public Health, said at a virtual press conference that an increase was expected as The City has allowed more activity including indoor dining, the use of playgrounds and in-person learning at private schools.

“We are prepared for this,” Colfax said. “We want to pause on increasing the capacity of riskier activities because we do not want the virus to get too far ahead of us. As we have seen across the country and around the world, when the virus gets too far ahead you can’t catch up.”

Colfax said that the decision to pause the reopening also comes amid troubling trends in the state and around the nation.

“We have also seen a 38 percent increase in cases in California and a 41 percent increase in cases in the United States over the past two weeks,” he said.