San Francisco officials on Thursday indefinitely extended stay-at-home and travel quarantine orders in the face of an uncertain impact from holiday gatherings.
The stay-at-home order took effect in The City and throughout much of the Bay Area on Dec. 6 and could have been lifted on Jan. 8 if intensive care unit capacity in the region stood at 15 percent, per state rules. The Bay Area’s ICU capacity is at around 7.5 percent as of Wednesday, officials said.
San Francisco also issued an order requiring anyone traveling or returning to the nine-county Bay Area to quarantine for 10 days, which was targeted to end on Jan. 4. Both orders are now extended indefinitely.
“We have been proactive in putting the stay at home order and travel quarantine in place to protect San Franciscans and in the hopes that by acting quickly, we could flatten the curve and re-open faster,” said Mayor London Breed. “This seems to be working, but we need more time to determine that we are moving in the right direction and that the December holidays don’t set us back. There are glimmers of hope and now is not the time to let up.”
The reproductive case rate has dropped, from each coronavirus-positive person infecting another 1.45 people on Dec. 5 to 1.13 on Dec. 26, averting an estimated 400 deaths.
But the impact of gatherings on Christmas and New Year’s has yet to be determined. Flights hit their highest numbers this month since the pandemic began, and a mid-to-late January surge is expected to overwhelm already beleaguered hospitals.
California is still leading the nation in average daily cases per capita, ahead of Tennessee and Arizona.
“This is sad but not unexpected news,” Supervisor Rafael Mandelman said on Thursday on Twitter about the extensions. “And yet, at the same time, my social media feed is filled with stories of people traveling to Puerto Vallarta to party for New Year’s. Following public health orders is important. The end of the pandemic is in sight, but it is not as close as it may look.”
Public health director Dr. Grant Colfax said having another holiday surge on top of the largest surge since the pandemic began would be “catastrophic,” and again urged people to avoid gathering.
Officials especially urged people to stay within their households for New Year’s Eve. The Recreation and Park Department shut off the Golden Gate Park light installations, and closed the Portola gate to Twin Peaks as well as the parking lots at Stern Grove, Marina Green, and Ocean Beach for Thursday night. A New Year’s Eve fireworks show was also canceled.
Until the order is lifted, activities are very limited. Indoor and outdoor dining, personal services like haircuts and tattoos, outdoor museums and zoos, indoor gyms, outdoor recreation like roller rinks, and so on are prohibited. Gatherings must be limited to two people of two different households or 12 people in the same household.
“The steps we have taken together have served us well, but the fact remains that San Francisco is in the midst of its worst surge yet,” Colfax said. “We must continue to take the preventative measures that we know slow the spread of the virus and save lives. Please continue to avoid gatherings, wear facial coverings, and keep your distance. We’ve crushed the curve before and can do it again.”