Dr. Grant Colfax, director of the SF Department of Public Health, and Mayor London Breed on Tuesday outlined plans to reopen The City. (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)

Top health official warns of uptick in COVID-19 hospitalizations as reopening continues

Despite an uptick in COVID-19 hospitalizations, San Francisco officials said Tuesday they are proceeding with reopening plans.

On Monday, for the first time since March, The City permitted indoor personal services, like hair salons and barber shops, and one-on-one personal training indoors at gyms.

Next week, The City will allow museums and kindergarten through sixth grade schools to open with approved health and safety plans. By the end of September, The City intends to allow churches to have indoor services with up to 25 people and 50 persons outdoors.

But as The City advances with reopening, officials are hoping to prevent a repeat of a spike in cases that began in late June that had prompted Mayor London Breed to halt the reopening plans then. The spike didn’t start to trend down until late July.

Breed noted the uptick in hospitalizations during a press conference Tuesday but remained committed to the current reopening timeline. She called on businesses and residents to continue to follow the guidelines to limit the spread of COVID-19 to ensure The City can continue to make progress on reopening.

“We don’t want to roll back the clock,” Breed said. “We can sacrifice this time for a better future.”

Dr. Grant Colfax, head of the Department of Public Health, said that “San Francisco’s approach has been to open incrementally so that we can manage the spread of COVID-19 as much as possible and sustain progress that we have made.”

The City ‘s average daily new cases of COVID-19 remains high at 61, but is trending downward. For example, on Aug. 13 the average new cases was 100.

But hospitalizations are increasing.

“Our hospitalizations are starting to rise again,” Colfax said. “We have had a 29 percent recent increase in Covid-19 patients in San Francisco hospitals.”

He added, “We do have sufficient hospital capacity.”

There were 55 people in acute care and 21 in intensive care as of Sunday, for a total of 76 hospitalizations, The City’s data shows.

On Sept. 3, the number of hospitalizations had dropped down to 51, following the peak of patients in hospitals since the spike that began in late June. During this spike, The City saw a high of 111 patients in the hospitals on July 28.

Colfax expressed optimism the numbers would decline again.

“We can do this,” Colfax said. “We’ve done it twice.”

Colfax said that people “must continue to mask, to socially distance, to avoid mass gatherings whenever possible.”

“We know from the data that this virus is responsive to our prevention measures,” he said.

He said that “to keep this reopening, to keep it moving forward we need everyone’s help to limit that community spread.”

The City has diagnosed 10,430 people with COVID-19 and 91 have died. The City is testing more than 3,400 people a day and has a 2.36 percent positivity rate.

Breed also noted that the air quality in San Francisco showed improvement Tuesday, achieving a yellow, or moderate air quality status.

“We are not in the green yet, but it is so much better than what we were in the past,” Breed said. “People can go outside and breathe a little better. We hopefully will see the air quality improve over the next couple of days.”

Breed also called on Gov. Gavin Newsom to extend his executive order allowing cities like San Francisco to extend its moratorium on the evictions of commercial tenants for failure to pay rent due to the impacts of COVID-19. The order currently expires Sept. 30.

“We need to do everything we can to keep our businesses stable and our commercial corridors from seeing even more vacancies,” Breed said in a statement. “Our local commercial eviction moratorium has been critical in providing small businesses an assurance that they can navigate these really challenging times without fear that they will be evicted because they can’t make rent.”

jsabatini@sfexaminer.com

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