On Friday, Mayor London Breed and Public Health Director Dr. Grant Colfax announced new lockdown orders that they foreshadowed earlier in the week. It means that starting Sunday night and extending until at least January 4, San Francisco restaurants will need to cease outdoor dining, personal services and indoor gyms will need to shut down, and retail businesses will need to enact stricter capacity limits.
"Today is a hard day," Mayor Breed began during an afternoon press briefing. Saying we were in a "much better place" in early October, Breed said she regretted having to address a far graver situation as we enter the holiday season, with surging cases and dwindling hospital beds across the region and the state. And despite statements by Governor Gavin Newsom on Thursday about the Bay Area not reaching the 15% ICU bed capacity threshold for at least a week or two, the City of San Francisco has again decided to preempt things and move forward with stricter orders now.
"We know that San Francisco isn't at that trigger point yet," Breed said, "but that doesn't mean we should wait to act... If you're not staying ahead of this virus, you're falling behind very quickly."
Breed said that orders made in recent weeks "simply haven't bent the curve," and therefore it's the health officer's prerogative to "opt in" to the state's recommended restrictions sooner rather than later.
"We know if we wait, we are just delaying the inevitable," Breed said. "If we wait one or two weeks, it will just mean our numbers will be higher."
San Francisco is joining into the early "opt-in" of the stay-at-home order with Alameda, Contra Costa, Marin, and Santa Clara counties and the city of Berkeley. At present, health officers say the order will be lifted January 4, but Colfax noted that the date is fluid and will depend how local hospital capacities look in four weeks time.
The new order also shuts down museums, drive-in events, and a variety of other activities, and says that gatherings of people outdoors must be limited to 12 people. (In a separate press conference, Berkeley's health officer Dr. Lisa Hernandez said, "Until we get through this wave, we should not meet with anyone outside your household even if it is outside. If you have a social bubble, it is now popped.")
Breed spoke emphatically about feeling "tired" like everyone else, and said, "I don't want to do any of this... I know that this means that people's livelihoods are at stake."
And both Breed and Colfax spoke about the immediate threat of running out of ICU beds to treat the severely ill. Colfax shared the chart below, and explained that SF's ICU beds are expected to run out by December 26, and if the trend continues, the city will potentially have 600 patients in need of ICU care without adequate bed capacity to treat them by early February.
"We are facing the reality that we won't be able to treat people who are sick, and that more people will die unnecessarily," Breed said.
When asked by a reporter whether the city had contact-tracing data or other reasons to suggest that particular activities are responsible for the spread of the virus — and that such data was guiding decisions to ban certain business activities — Colfax again demurred.
"We know the more we move around, the more we engage... the more likely it is that we will see the spread of this virus," Colfax replied, and left it at that.
Moreso than in past press conferences, Breed seemed to grow emotional in her pleas with the public and her apologies for needing to impose economically painful restrictions. And she also addressed this week's controversy over her French Laundry dinner from early November, reiterating a statement issued Thursday that the "criticisms are fair" and that she should have held herself to a higher standard than simply "the letter of the law" in choosing to dine out with others. But she asked for understanding and said, "Every day I do this job ... I'm doing my very best for this city.... I want everyone to recognize that people around you are trying... We can't turn on each other."
"It has been very challenging, and I do understand completely," she said.
She ended her remarks by encouraging all San Franciscans to shop locally for the holidays in order to support struggling retail businesses, and to order takeout as much as possible from favorite restaurants to help them survive.