San Francisco is still pretty wide open, along with the rest of the Bay Area, despite concerns over the Delta variant and its ability to spread among the vaccinated and unvaccinated alike. But the surge does not seem to have peaked yet, and some parties and shows are starting to cancel out of caution.
San Francisco's seven-day rolling average of new daily COVID cases hit 235 as of July 28, the last day for which reliable data from the health department is available. That's up from 165 just a week earlier, and up from 27 on July 1. And the number of daily tests being collected in the city hit 4,900 last week for the first time since mid-April — i.e. before eligibility for vaccines opened to the general public.
But back in mid-April, SF's test-positivity rate was hovering at or below 1%, and you may recall that the criteria for entering the state's "Yellow" tier was a rate below 1% with average daily new cases at or below 2 per 100,000 residents. SF is currently seeing 26 daily cases per 100,000 — well into "Purple" territory that would have triggered a full lockdown.
Now, SF's test positivity rate stands at 5.8%, the highest it's been at any point since April 25, 2020, when the number of tests being administered was far lower. Even at the height of the January surge, the positivity rate in the city peaked at 5.4%. In more recent days, the rate has even gone as high as 6.9% and may still be climbing.
Public health officials have stressed that universal masking should be enough to end the surge, but that remains to be proven. It's also still not known what percentage of positive tests in SF are coming from vaccinated people — though it seems clear that the vast majority of positive cases among the vaccinated, though not all, are mild to moderate cases akin to the flu.
Meanwhile, masking indoors, while it's being fairly widely enforced, doesn't really count in bars and clubs where people are allowed to pull their masks down while drinking and chatting with friends. Very few bartenders are likely taking the strict stance of Carlton Paul, at SoMa's Powerhouse, who wrote on Facebook, "if you are talking to your friend or the bartender and air is coming from your lips you must have your mask on" — adding that he would be policing the policy if people removed their masks for longer than it takes to take a sip.
As the Washington Post reports, the Provincetown outbreak shows how partying in packed indoor spaces with no masks is a recipe for Delta variant spread among the vaccinated. But the outbreak also shows that among groups with very high vaccination rates, the disease's impact is lessened considerably — only seven people out of the 1,000+ recorded Provincetown cases required hospitalization, and a couple of those were unvaccinated, and none has died.
Some parties and shows have already canceled due to heightening concerns and the new indoor mask mandate. A theater/cabaret show that was supposed to play for a third weekend at Oasis starting tonight has canceled its final performances. People hoping to see drag legend Matthew Martin as Joan Crawford in "The Hand That Rocks the Crawford" are being refunded for their tickets, though the club is continuing on with its other events this week.
The promoters of longtime monthly queer party Daytime Realness at El Rio, which just made its return on July 18 after a 21-month hiatus, announced this week that they are canceling their remaining dates for this year in August, September, and October.
"It was fun while it lasted!" says the team, which includes Heklina, Tom Temprano, and Stanley Frank, writing on Facebook. "We love spending a magical Sunday afternoon with all of you on the patio, but we want to make sure that we always do so in a way that maximizes fun and safety for our attendees and performers. With that in mind we have made the difficult decision to cancel the remaining three dates of our 2021 season with the hopes of coming back for a COVID-free, restriction-free and fun-filled Daytime Realness season in 2022."
But clubs both large and small around the city are still moving forward with reopenings that have been planned for over a month, despite the mask mandate. SoMa nightclub Halcyon is reopening Friday night, with tickets still available.
Potrero music venue Bottom of the Hill is planning to reopen August 13, with a grand reopening party scheduled the night after, on August 14. But already, the headlining act for that night, Bay Area-based metal band Mordred, has backed out over concerns about the Delta variant surge.
"We (Mordred) are currently watching the increasing number of COVID-19 cases spreading to those close to us, as well as those of varied degrees of separation," the band wrote on Facebook Wednesday. "This surge appears to match what's being reported in regards to the highly virulent Delta variant of COV Sars 2. Sadly, we are going to once again postpone our show at the Bottom of the Hill, scheduled for Saturday, August 14th, 2021, to Saturday, January 15, 2022. We do not wish to risk the health of our fans, crew, Bottom of the Hill staff, and ourselves for this long-awaited record release show."
Expect more announcements like this in the coming days — so if you plan to attend something, double check that it's still on.