The outdoor dining era in San Francisco — and elsewhere around the Bay — might be able to resume in about three weeks, give or take, according to projections from the state on COVID-related ICU capacities.

As you likely know, the current lockdown orders were not the work of Mayor London Breed or any other mayor or public-health director, but come at the command of Governor Gavin Newsom at a regional level. While San Francisco and four other Bay Area counties began their stay-at-home orders about 10 days earlier than they would have needed to in December, the region-wide order took effect on December 18, and won't be lifted until the state forecasts that ICU bed availability is going down and will reach 15% or more within four weeks.

As the Chronicle reported Thursday, the Greater Sacramento region (which includes Tahoe and a total of 13 counties) had its state order lifted this week not because it has reached 15% ICU bed availability, but because it is projected to soon.

Meanwhile, the Bay Area's ICU availability dropped to its lowest level since the pandemic began on Monday, dipping below 1%, but thankfully it was back up to 4.7% by midweek and may be trending upward.

Currently, via the California COVID Assessment Tool, the soonest the Bay Area would see its orders lifted would be February 7 — though it's possible the outlook could change by next week.  And while San Francisco and Alameda County have boosted their capacities in recent days, per the Chronicle, other counties are bringing down the region's average — like Santa Cruz County, which had 0% ICU availability as of midweek.

San Francisco restaurants that invested in outdoor parklets, etc., are eager to reopen for diners, and the science jury is still out on whether outdoor dining poses a significant risk for COVID transmission.

Experts have been warning, though, just as trends may be going in the right direction locally, that the new, more contagious U.K. variant of the coronavirus is actively spreading the U.S. — and it could become the dominant strain here by March. The strain was found to spread widely in the U.K. even while lockdown orders were in place, suggesting that regular "essential" business (let alone dining) may be riskier for transmission than with the original strains of the virus.

Photo: SFist