S.F. Officials Warn Residents to Stay In to Avoid Smoke, May Open Respite Centers

San Francisco's Director of Emergency Management, Mary Ellen Carroll, warns city residents to stay inside to avoid smoke from Northern California wildfires.

Screen Capture via SFGovTV and Zoom

San Francisco's Director of Emergency Management, Mary Ellen Carroll, warns city residents to stay inside to avoid smoke from Northern California wildfires.

City officials advised San Francisco residents to stay indoors wherever possible with the windows shut to protect against smoke from wildfires that has blanketed the region. On Wednesday afternoon, air quality was designated as unhealthy, though it has fluctuated. If smoke pollution deteriorates air quality to “very unhealthy,” the city will open respite centers, officials said in a press conference. 

“Please continue to stay home as much as possible,” said Mayor London Breed. “It is important both for the slowing of the spread of COVID-19 and for minimizing your exposure to poor air quality.”

Breed said supporting people with no home to shelter in was among the top priorities for the city. Outreach workers will be distributing N95 masks to those living outdoors and to outdoor essential city workers, said Mary Ellen Carroll, director of the Department of Emergency Management. 

Carroll said that if the city begins opening respite centers, these would be sites arranged to enable social distancing and where the city will conduct health screenings for anyone entering.

San Francisco is expected to be removed from the state’s watchlist of counties experiencing coronavirus surges on Thursday, Breed said.

“In the midst of these wildfires and everything that we’re dealing with, we have got to use common sense and good behavior if we want to beat back this virus and make sure we make it through this challenging time with this poor air quality,” Breed said. 

Other points raised at the press conference include:

  • Breed said the poor air quality is one of the effects of climate change and warned more such events are likely to occur. (5:45)
  • Dr. Grant Colfax, director of the Department of Public Health, described who may be particularly vulnerable to ill health effects from poor air quality and encouraged checking on relatives and friends virtually. (14:01)
  • Abigail Stewart-Kahn, director of the Department of Homelessness and Supportive Housing, encouraged housed residents to ask homeless residents how they are doing. (21:51)
  • Colfax said the city currently has no plans to shut down outdoor COVID-19 testing sites. (22:41)