Though San Francisco expected to be the first county in the Bay Area to enter the "Yellow" tier for reopening next week — returning where it was for a brief period last fall in terms of falling COVID case numbers and hospitalizations — that won't be happening yet. But city officials announced a few more rule changes for businesses on Thursday afternoon that will make things a bit more relaxed.
"It’s not clear when we will reach the 'Yellow' tier because our case rate has not been declining as it once was," said Acting Public Health Officer Dr. Susan Philip during Thursday's online presentation. Instead, she said, the city would move next week into an "expanded Orange tier."
San Francisco has had extra restrictions in the "Orange" tier since its last status change on March 24 that are not required by the state, and some of those are being lifted on April 15, Dr. Philip said.
The biggest change will be for restaurants, which no longer will have to close at 11 p.m., and will be able to seat larger parties outdoors. Indoors, things remain at 50% capacity with no more than six people at a table from up to three different households. But outdoors, as of the 15th, group reservations of up to 25 seated at tables of up to eight people will be allowed — and the ban on people mingling between tables is being lifted.
Also, bars can seat people outside at tables up to eight people along those same rules.
Grocery stores will no longer have to offer special operating hours for unvaccinated elderly people as of the 15th. And hotels are going to be allowed to host limited private meetings as well, with face coverings required.
As we heard already, live indoor events are returning next week as well, with a host of restrictions. The rule is 35% capacity with face coverings and proof of vaccination or a negative COVID test for all attendees — and with those rules in place, the Chase Center will allow fans in to see the Warriors' last nine games of the regular season, with a capacity limit of 6,300. And, as we already know, Oracle Park is getting to host Giants games with 9,200 fans in the stands, but concessions are in-seat only and pods of fans will be separated.
Live outdoor events have a 50-person capacity limit, unless they are ticketed events with assigned seats, in which case they can qualify for larger capacity.
Governor Gavin Newsom this week boldly announced that most of these restrictions and capacity limits will be lifted on June 15, assuming the COVID picture doesn't go sideways between now and then. Some experts are wary of making such pronouncements — and several this week expressed some worry and caution until more of the Bay Area gets vaccinated. But Newsom is betting that things will stay steady and that California won't see another big surge, otherwise his political future could be in grave danger if he has to reverse himself.
Other restrictions getting lifted next week in San Francisco include allowing indoor conventions of up to 150 guests with face coverings and seating charts required, along with negative COVID tests or proof of vaccination for attendees. And museums, zoos, and aquariums will be able to open their auditoriums, using all the rules for indoor live performances.
San Francisco's case numbers remain fairly low, though hospitalized COVID cases did tick up this week. In order to qualify for "Yellow" tier status, SF would need to see an adjusted daily new case rate of less than 2 per 100,000 residents, and a case-positivity rate of less than 2%. As of April 6, San Francisco County was just on the line with an adjusted daily case rate of 2.0 per 100,000 residents, which is the lowest rate of any Bay Area county.
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