San Francisco will allow outdoor dining and other limited business activity to resume Thursday morning after the state lifted the stay-at-home order imposed weeks ago amid a rapid surge of COVID-19.
But it will keep in place a 10 p.m. curfew and a 10-day quarantine for travelers entering San Francisco from outside the Bay Area.
With the lifting of the order Monday, the state reverts back to its color-coded four-tier system, which places restrictions on counties based on the transmission risk of the virus as determined by various metrics.
San Francisco is expected to remain in the purple tier, the highest risk category with the most restrictions, when the state updates the counties’ tier status Tuesday. But it means The City can reopen business activity that was shut down or limited when the state’s stay-at-home order was imposed in early December.
“The good news is we are in a better place than we’ve been in a long time,” Mayor London Breed said when announcing what can reopen. Daily cases in San Francisco now average 261, down from a high of 372.
Restaurants will be able to resume outdoor dining beginning Thursday with certain restrictions. Tables must be at least six feet apart and no more than six people per table will be allowed from no more than two households.
Indoor and outdoor personal services businesses including nail salons, barbers and massage services can reopen, but facial coverings must be worn at all times. Outdoor zoo and museum operations can resume at 50 percent capacity.
Hotels can start booking rooms for tourists. But since San Francisco will keep in place its 10-day travel quarantine they must only book reservations from those traveling in from outside the Bay Area for 10 days or longer.
The City has decided keep in place the 10 p.m. to 5 a.m. curfew that prohibits non-essential businesses from operating during these hours and anyone from gathering with members outside of their household. It initially was imposed by the state in November, but the state lifted it Monday along with the order. However, counties can impose stricter measures. The curfew will remain in place until The City enters the red tier, the second most restrictive category. People can leave their homes during the curfew.
Laurie Thomas, executive director of the Golden Gate Restaurant Association, which advocates for restaurants in San Francisco, was opposed to keeping the curfew in place.
“It means that restaurants won’t realistically be able to seat after 8-8:30 p.m.,” Thomas said. “This means many restaurants will lose revenue by not being able to seat the table for a second seating.”
She added that outdoor dining has its limitations in helping restaurants sustain their business and she will “continue to strongly advocate for additional federal, state and city financial aid.”
Small gatherings are allowed again of up to three households with a maximum of 12 people if social distance is maintained and no food or drink is consumed. And some capacity limits imposed during the order can expand. Grocery stores can increase capacity from 35% to 50%.
The state order was imposed when a region’s intensive care unit bed capacity dropped below 15 percent, although San Francisco imposed the order earlier than the state required, shutting down outdoor dining and other activities in early December,
The California Department of Public Health ended the regional stay at home orders after projections indicated ICU capacity would exceed 15% looking four weeks out. Bay Area ICU capacity is expected to be at 25% remaining capacity on Feb. 21 and statewide capacity at 30.3%.
While Gov. Gavin Newsom cautioned that “we are not out of the woods,” he pointed to promising declines in the transmission rates as a reason for lifting the order. The state’s two-week positivity rate has decreased to 9.5% as of Monday when two weeks ago it was 13.6%. The state has seen a 9.5% decline in ICU admissions over the last two weeks, from 4,854 to 4,395.
“We are in a position, projecting four weeks forward, with a significant decline in the case rates, positivity rates, we are anticipating decline, still more decline in hospitalizations and more declines in ICUs and that’s why we are lifting that stay-at-home order effectively immediately today,” Newsom said.
Asked if he was moving too fast given the concerns around new, reportedly more contagious variants of COVID-19, Newsom defended the move. “We still are now in these tiers, tiers that we believe have served us well,” Newsom said. “If we see things beginning to break in a direction that was not anticipated, we will make a move to address that.”
He also sounded a promising note about further easing of state restrictions in the near future.
“We will be moving, we hope, quickly through tiers,” Newsom said.