SF Mayor London Breed and Director of Public Health Dr. Grant Colfax today announced that as the city moves back two tiers in the state's pandemic rating system, from "Yellow" to "Red" status, non-essential offices now need to return to remote work, and gyms must further limit their capacities.
With San Francisco slipping back into the "Red" tier as of Monday — skipping over the "Orange" tier — due to rising COVID cases, Breed and Colfax gave a press conference immediately following one by Governor Gavin Newsom to respond to the change. Early last week, they preempted this move by ordering the closure of all indoor dining as of Saturday — SF restaurants had been permitted to welcome in guests at 25% capacity as of September 29 — and the reduction of capacity at movie theaters and gyms from 5o% to 25%.
Today, Breed announced that gyms and climbing facilities would need to further reduce capacity to 10%, and all non-essential offices would need to close again, if they had reopened.
"We want to continue to make sure that we don't go backwards," Breed said. "We are going to proceed with caution to do everything we can to avoid a [more total] shutdown."
In contrast, Contra Costa County, which moved to "Red" tier status last week, recently announced the closure of all indoor gyms along with indoor dining.
Colfax noted that San Francisco's new daily case rate had risen in the last week to 10 in 100,000 people — still below the 30 or 35 per 100,000 being seen elsewhere in the country, but, he said, "There's no reason to think that San Francisco couldn't catch up to the rest of the country, and catch up quickly."
As of early October, SF was seeing 3.7 new cases per 100,000 residents each day, and that rose to 9 per 100,000 as of last week. Colfax said that the city expects to gain 1,000 cases, going from 13,000 to 14,000 cumulative cases, within 12 days. The city, he noted, took 30 days to go from 11,000 to 12,000 cases, and 18 days to go from 12,000 to 13,000 cases.
On the good news side, San Francisco's percent-positivity rate is still below 2%, at 1.87%, which is in the range for the "Yellow" tier, but data for this lags by about a week.
Colfax further stressed the need to stay home for Thanksgiving, and celebrate only with one's immediate household.
"These are not normal times," he said, adding that strategies around getting tested before gathering with others — especially when one has been at risk of exposure to the virus — are not sound, and can put many people's lives at risk. "We have seen the repeated failure of this strategy," he said, "including at the White House," noting that negative tests can often happen for contagious but symptomatic people who are still incubating the virus.
When asked whether further restrictions, such as on outdoor dining, could be coming, Colfax said that city officials were focusing on the above moves along with an admonition against all holiday travel and gatherings, for now.
"We hope this will be enough to beat back the surge," Colfax said.
The state's and city's announcements today come as President-elect Joe Biden warned of a "very dark winter" ahead for the pandemic if President Trump refuses allow a peaceful transition of power in the coming weeks.