San Franciscans have done a “terrific” job reducing the spread of coronavirus in the community, Public Health Director Grant Colfax said Tuesday. (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)

Supes support greater flexibility in easing COVID-19 restrictions

San Francisco may soon be allowed to ease COVID-19 restrictions at a quicker pace.

San Francisco may soon be allowed to ease COVID-19 restrictions at a quicker pace after the Board of Supervisors unanimously passed a motion Tuesday supporting a request from health officials’ to the state for a local variance.”

If the state approves the variance, county officials could allow more businesses to open sooner than state guidelines permit during the second phase of reopening.

“We are one of the few counties left that have not gotten the variance … so we are different as always,” said Board President Norman Yee, who sponsored the motion. “We recognize that this is a very important step to allow local flexibility. And we have to support reopening our businesses and returning people to work in the safest way possible.”

While the city entered phase 2B of reopening last week, allowing outdoor dining and customers to shop inside retail businesses last week, counties with the variance can grant businesses such as gyms and fitness centers, zoos and museums, to open sooner. But the variance does not permit live theaters, nightclubs and festivals, among other businesses to operate during stage 2 of the process.

“We’re not going to change the fact that we want to make sure we continue to look at health indicators to help guide our process and thinking,” Assessor-Record Carmen Chu said at a press conference. “and that we continue to use good science and data to make sure that as we consider different openings and phases.”

To qualify for variance, San Francisco must meet certain criteria regarding the number of COVID-19 cases, testing and hospital capacity. As of June 13, the average number of new cases per day in The City had decreased from 49 in mid-April to 21. More than 35 percent of intensive care units and over 25 percent of hospital beds were available as of June 12. By then, the city was conducting an average of almost 2,500 tests per day, exceeding its goal of 1,800 daily tests.

“San Franciscans have done a terrific job of slowing the spread of the coronavirus and flattening the curve in our community. I just want to thank all San Franciscans for that shared effort,” said Dr. Grant Colfax, director of the San Francisco Department of Public Health, in a press conference. “We are now able to move into a gradual phase of reopening. Of course, being vigilant and recognizing the risk going forward.”

Nonetheless, Colfax urged people to continue social distancing, wearing masks and sheltering in place.

“As we reopen and as more people move around the city and the region, we expect to see an increase in cases and hospitalizations,” Colfax said. “That has already been the pattern in other places that have started to open up. Our goal is to keep morbidity and mortality as low as possible during this phase of the pandemic.”

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