As expected, Mayor London Breed and Dr. Grant Colfax gave their latest updates today on businesses that are allowed to reopen under public health orders, with September 1 being the latest goalpost for certain categories of businesses. And the news isn't great for restaurants hoping to restart indoor dining in the foreseeable future.
San Francisco is, under new state guidelines announced Friday, allowed to reopen restaurants for indoor service at 25-percent capacity. But the stricter local orders take precedence, and as of today, Director of Public Health Dr. Grant Colfax says that no indoor dining will happening in the city anytime too soon. The reason he says that indoor dining, in which masks will be off and people will be lingering for long periods, poses too many virus transmission risks.
"We know our communities and businesses are anxious to get back to work and start doing some regular activities,” Colfax said in a statement. “We will continue our deliberate and gradual reopening as it allows us to monitor the spread, manage its immediate challenges and mitigate the long term impact on our city. Our reopening pace will be informed by our ability to manage the risk of more activity that may result in more cases and hospitalizations."
As of today, barbershops, hair salons, nail salons, massage studios, and other personal services are allowed to take place outdoors in San Francisco, and indoor malls — which reopened in late June before closing again when SF landed on the state's watch list — can reopen at limited capacity as well.
"Our priority has always been to protect the health and safety of the people of San Francisco,” said Mayor Breed in a statement. "Since March, people have been struggling financially, mentally, and emotionally, and being able to continue our gradual reopening of businesses and activities will help to ease some of that burden. We remain committed to making decisions based on data and our local conditions with COVID-19, and our next steps take a balanced and thoughtful approach to reopening."
Eater reports that Colfax was less than forthcoming during the Q&A period today when asked directly about when restaurants can welcome people back inside. He referred to these other activities, like haircuts, as "lower risk," and said of indoor dining, "there are a number things that are concerning there." "Indoor dining might be in a later [phase] at this point, because of the risk that is entailed, people sitting down for long periods of time, in crowded quarters and in the indoors, taking off masks."
He added, "I certainly miss going to restaurants, and if we all do our part, I think we’d all be thrilled to see indoor dining coming online in the future."
San Francisco recorded 50 new COVID cases on Tuesday, which is one of the lowest one-day tallies the city has seen since June. But a rapid rise in cases and hospitalizations after a curve-flattening May and June led to the indefinite postponement of the city's next phase of economic reopening, and some pullback that included re-closing malls.
The state is expected to update its four-color county rating system, based on COVID case data, every Tuesday, and other Bay Area counties may end up being able to open restaurants sooner than densely populated SF. Currently, only San Francisco and Napa counties are the only ones in the Bay Area in the second-highest or "red" tier, marking "substantial" but not "widespread" virus transmission. Napa County reopened its restaurants at 25-percent capacity indoors on Monday based on the state guideliness.