Mayor London Breed

S.F. Mayor Says Indoor Malls, Non-Essential Offices to Close

UPDATE: July 17, 2020. Adds embedded audio and timestamps to summary of key points from press conference. Mayor London Breed announced this morning at a press conference that San Francisco would roll back some of its reopenings, closing indoor malls and non-essential offices on Monday. S.F. has joined a list of  30 counties on the state watch list, due to the rapidly rising number of Covid cases. San Francisco has 4,795 confirmed cases of coronavirus and 52 deaths.

Dr. Grant Colfax, Director of the San Francisco Department of Public Health

COVID-19 Hospitalizations in S.F. Could Be Ten Times Higher by October

San Francisco’s Department of Public Health says further reopening plans remain on hold as the city sees a surge in new coronavirus infections that could lead to dire consequences in coming weeks. 

“The virus is not only still out there, it is out there more than ever before,” said Dr. Grant Colfax, director of the department, in a press conference Wednesday. “We are working with researchers who are seeing the reproductive rate of the virus continue to climb above one. Right now we estimate that that number is approximately 1.3,” he said, referring to the R0 or “r naught,” a term used to describe the infection rate of a disease.  In this case, that would essentially mean that for every three people with the virus, four new people are becoming infected. 

Dr. Colfax said at the current rate the number of infected people needing hospital beds in San Francisco could rise tenfold by fall. “If we do not do better, we are looking at major problems by late August and September, with an average peak of 900 hospitalized patients by early October,” he said. “And just to put this in some frame of reference, on our last surge, in April, we peaked at 94 cases.”

Colfax said contact tracing is showing that the spread in San Francisco is mostly among small groups of people who know each other. 

“There’s increased activity in terms of the social gatherings that people are having,” he said.

The Department of Public Health has identified the Palace of Fine Arts as a possible location for a pop-up ward wards to be used in the event of a coronavirus surge.

S.F. Identifies Sites for Pop-Up COVID-19 Wards in Case of Surge

San Francisco has identified a handful of potential pop-up wards to be used in the event of a coronavirus surge to house nearly 500 COVID-positive patients who do not require hospitalization but who cannot recuperate on their own because of their housing status or medical conditions, the Department of Emergency Management confirmed in a series of emails last week.

San Francisco Mayor London Breed. Screen capture from SFGovTV

S.F. Reopening on Pause With No New Timeline Set

San Francisco officials on Tuesday announced that because coronavirus case numbers continue to climb, indoor restaurants and outdoor bars will not be permitted to reopen on July 13, a previous target date, and no new timeline has been established. For some other businesses, reopening guidance is expected by the end of the week. 

“We know that in order to protect public health, we are creating other challenges for small businesses, we are creating other challenges because we know that over 153,000 San Franciscans have filed for unemployment,” Mayor London Breed said. “We don’t make these decisions lightly.” 

The number of cases seen in San Francisco has surpassed 4,000, and 68 people are hospitalized with COVID-19. Thirteen of those patients were transferred from San Quentin State Prison, which has experienced an explosive outbreak with more than 1,400 cases. 

While hospital capacity remains good, according to city Health Director Dr. Grant Colfax, other key indicators of the city’s response to the pandemic have worsened to “high alert” status. The city is logging 6.1 new cases per 100,000 residents per day, far exceeding its goal of 1.8 or fewer.

Director of Public Health, Dr. Grant Colfax. Screen capture via Zoom.

San Franciscans Urged to Stay Home During Holiday Weekend as COVID Cases Rise

San Francisco’s Emergency Operations Center Thursday urged residents to celebrate the Fourth of July holiday weekend at home to slow the spread of the coronavirus. Over the last two weeks, the seven-day average number of new cases in the city has more than doubled and hospitalization rose by more than 50% in the last week. As of June 29, there were 67 COVID-19 patients in city hospitals, including 18 transferred in from hot spots in Imperial and Fresno counties and San Quentin Prison in Marin County. Department of Public Health Executive Director Dr. Grant Colfax said, “The best thing to do is to stay home, celebrate with members of your household and celebrate virtually with others.”

San Francisco Health Officer Dr. Tomás Aragón. Screen shot from press conference

Amid Increased Hospitalizations, Government Officials Urge Caution Over July 4 Weekend

San Francisco public officials warned that people should avoid gatherings to celebrate July 4, as infection rates and hospitalizations linked to the COVID-19 pandemic have surged over the past week.

Dr. Tomás Aragón, San Francisco Health Officer, and Joaquín Torres, the director of the Office of Economic and Workforce Development, urged San Franciscans to get outside to some of the area’s surrounding nature over the holiday weekend in lieu of attending indoor gatherings.

Landlords Threaten to Sue Over S.F. Eviction Ban

A landlords’ group plans to sue San Francisco over tenant protections established in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, according to the organization’s executive director. The Board of Supervisors this month approved a permanent ban on evictions for rents unpaid from mid-March through July. An earlier local eviction moratorium would have allowed landlords to start pursuing evictions of tenants for any remaining unpaid rents — even those due during the emergency — by the end of December. The end date of the eviction ban is based on an executive order by Gov. Gavin Newsom, who could extend the time period. The switch to a permanent ban galvanized the San Francisco Apartment Association, a property owners group with thousands of members, to threaten legal action.

A march for racial justice and against police killings moves down Market Street at Van Ness Avenue on June 19, 2020. Brian Howey / Public Press

Demonstrators March Through San Francisco to Mark Juneteenth

Hundreds marched through San Francisco on Friday afternoon to mark Juneteenth, protesting police killings and calling for racial justice. The San Francisco Public Press followed the demonstration, which made its way from the Ferry Building to City Hall and then on to the school district building. Read updates from the march below, and hear a compilation of reflections from demonstrators in this recent episode of our radio program and podcast, “Civic.”

4:25 p.m.

With some 250 protesters still in front of the school district administrative building on Franklin Street, Indigenous dancers performed a ceremony while protesters sat and knelt. Lexi Hall sang “Lean On Me” with some demonstrators occasionally chiming in for the chorus. 

“I think it’s definitely important for the youth to be a voice for the Black Lives Matter movement,” said Hall. “And we all came together, all of the creatives in San Francisco to put on a show and celebrate Juneteenth for the city.”

Hall’s partner, 19-year-old rapper Xanubis, had performed several times at the march that day. Xanubis and Lexi Hall.

Dr. Grant Colfax

Health Director: S.F. Must Be Vigilant, Flexible as City Reopens

As San Francisco improves its ability to mitigate the spread and treat the effects of the novel coronavirus, the city is also grappling with the fallout of its economic shutdown. Dr. Grant Colfax, director of the city’s Department of Public Health, said at a virtual press conference on Tuesday that the city has rapidly expanded its testing and contact tracing capacity and improved its supplies of personal protective equipment. While the number of new cases has not reduced to the city’s goal, the number of hospitalizations has dropped and hospital capacity meets the city’s target. Colfax acknowledged, however, that the economic shutdown resulting from the city’s shelter-in-place order has detrimental public health effects as well as economic ones. He also said he expected to see case numbers increase as the city reopens.