While vaccine supplies remain inconsistent and insufficient, San Francisco officially moved into Phase 1B of vaccine eligibility on Wednesday, allowing grocery store and food service workers to be next in line alongside educators, childcare workers, emergency services personnel, and agriculture workers.
Mayor London Breed previously announced February 24 as the day that this next eligibility phase would begin, but that was before the city had to pause two mass-vaccination sites at City College and the Moscone Center due to lack of vaccine supply. As Breed said on Twitter Wednesday, "Supply and appointments remain very limited, but if you're now eligible visit http://sf.gov/getvaccinated!"
How grocery and restaurant workers will be expected to prove their employment is not entirely clear, and as Eater reported last week, the Golden Gate Restaurant Association is advocating for an honor system. Otherwise, because some workers are currently laid off or furloughed or may otherwise lack sufficient documentation, they say it "will just provide more barriers for getting the vaccines" and "slow down the process." Currently, sites like the City College site, which is run by UCSF, requires an online signature attesting to one's eligibility, and then documentation brought in person like a paystub, worker badge, or an unspecified other way of proving one's employment.
Food service workers have been prioritized in other cities like New York, but under CDC guidelines they would actually fall into Phase 1C. Here in San Francisco, this will hopefully help restaurants to continue to reopen safely — and as indoor dining resumes, possibly beginning next week, vaccinations will help to protect servers who are more at risk of catching the coronavirus than patrons because of their volume of exposure to strangers. (We know of at least one story of a server at International Smoke who believes she contracted the virus during the brief period when indoor dining was allowed last fall.)
The city of Berkeley opened up vaccinations to grocery store workers last week, but restaurant workers in Alameda County have to go to the Oakland Coliseum for their shots.
"Getting people who live and work in San Francisco vaccinated as quickly as possible will help us keep our entire community safe and save lives," Breed said in a statement. "We’ve been dealing with this pandemic for a year now, and throughout that time, our workforce has kept the city going."
"From the grocery store clerks, child care providers and teachers, to emergency workers and restaurant cooks and waiters, these frontline workers have showed up for all of us, and I’m glad we’re able to move forward with expanding vaccine eligibility to include them."
San Francisco has three mass-vaccination sites ready to roll, including the latest to open at the wholesale produce market in the Bayview, and the city is prepared to begin vaccinating 10,000 people per day once vaccine supplies catch up. Also, on the city's vaccine site list, the FEMA-run Oakland Coliseum site is listed, so eligible workers may want to check there as well via the MyTurn.ca.gov site.
Breed said that, as of Wednesday, the city has vaccinated 80% of all seniors and healthcare workers who are part of Phase 1A, and now 18% of all San Franciscans over the age of 16 have received their first doses. Phase 1A was estimated to represent about 210,000 people, and it includes healthcare workers who work in San Francisco but live elsewhere in the Bay Area.
This latest group in Phase 1B is estimated to be 168,000 more people who live or work in San Francisco.
Starting March 15, the State of California has said that eligibility will be opened to people of any age with disabilities or those who have one of a list of ten chronic underlying conditions, including pregnancy, Type 2 diabetes, cancer, severe obesity, kidney disease, and chronic pulmonary disease.
The Moscone Center vaccination site is scheduled to reopen for appointments on Thursday, and the Department of Public Health has also opened two drop-in vaccination sites for seniors where no appointments are required — one at SF General and one at the Southeast Health
As of Tuesday, San Francisco remained in the "Purple" tier for reopening according to state metrics, however this was cause for confusion to many as the city's COVID numbers have been steadily declining — and are not worse than those in San Mateo or Marin counties, which moved to the "Red" tier yesterday. But out of an abundance of caution or some quirk of the state's algorithm, the city will likely wait until next Tuesday to reopen restaurants and museums at 25% capacity, and indoor gyms at 10% capacity. The other six Bay Area counties may also move into the less restrictive "Red" tier next week or soon thereafter.
Photo: Michael Browning