In an about-face from April and May, when San Franciscans seemed largely in agreement that lockdown orders were necessary — if economically painful — there's been significant backlash in the last week to the latest order, specifically over shutting down outdoor dining.
While no studies have emerged pointing to the particular risks of dining outdoors, the argument seems to be that leaving open restaurant parklets and bars serving food with drinks outside is creating too many unnecessary opportunities for mixing and mingling — which may be the primary driver of the COVID surge now happening across the region and the state. When asked whether there was specific data supporting the shutdown of outdoor dining last week, Dr. Grant Colfax would only say, "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."
But the restaurant industry has been among the hardest hit by the pandemic, and in San Francisco — where mask-wearing has generally been well adhered-to and where no one is really debating the science of epidemiology — restaurant owners and workers are crying foul over this latest order.
Manny Yekutiel, owner of Manny's in the Mission, tells the Examiner this week that the city hasn't done enough to financially support the hard-hit hospitality sector. And he feels like officials haven't recognized the importance of restaurants and cafes in peoples' lives.
"We’re not just places that sell stuff. We also provide relief for people and memory creation," Yekutiel says. "Creating a mood is not just about the finer things, it’s also about the position we occupy in society as third spaces."
And Friday at 4 p.m., a rally by and for restaurant workers is happening at City Hall, in protest of the order that shut down restaurants for at least the next three to four weeks. As ABC 7 reports, ralliers will be calling on Governor Gavin Newsom to make an exception for outdoor dining and allow their businesses to reopen — and calling on the city and state to provide more financial support to keep businesses from going under.
This marks a shift from early May, when a group of dozens of people seemingly from outside the city came to rally at City Hall in protest of the statewide lockdown that was about six weeks old at that point. That came after two weeks in which such rallies were popping up all over the country, though things were muted here in the Bay Area where case counts remained low and everyone seemed largely in agreement about staying at home.
Before any restaurants had reopened for outdoor service in San Francisco, it seemed downright Trumpian to be protesting public-health orders at all. But after a summer and early fall in which outdoor dining had been going on while over COVID case numbers stabilized and went down in the city, many now argue that it's other conditions and behaviors — and private gatherings inside — that are driving the latest surge.
But, meanwhile, San Francisco just saw its highest ever one-day total of new COVID cases today, with 307 added to the cumulative total that now stands at 17,878. Now, more than ever, people really do need to stay home to stop the exponential explosion of cases that has happened in other cities throughout this pandemic.