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It’s Official: Reopening for San Francisco Restaurants and Bars Is on Indefinite Hold

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“We have no choice,” Mayor Breed says. “We are living in COVID.”

At a press conference on July 7, San Francisco Mayor London Breed announced that restaurant dining rooms and bars must remain closed

At a press conference Tuesday morning, Mayor London Breed announced that reopening for the city’s bars and restaurants is on hold, and the planned July 13 reopening for dining rooms and outdoor drinking is officially canceled.

A somber Breed, her voice breaking as she spoke, said via an online press conference that while San Francisco’s coronavirus cases have not seen the alarming spikes that neighboring counties have, “numbers are still going up.” As a result, she said, “as of today, we must announce that on July 13, we will not be able to allow restaurants to operate indoors, nor will we be able to allow bars to open outdoors.”

Referencing her press conference from May 28, during which Breed announced a reopening timeline that would allow indoor dining by mid-July, the mayor said that at that time, “we were doing well in terms of our numbers,” and officials felt comfortable enough to apply for a variance to allow bars that do not serve food to resume outdoor drinking on June 29.

“And then we saw a change,” Breed said, “a spike [in cases] we have not seen for a very long time.” According to San Francisco Director of Health Dr. Grant Colfax, at present, San Francisco is averaging 6.1 cases per 100,000 cases per day, but “our goal is to keep that at 1.8,” he said. As of Tuesday morning, there are 4,020 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in San Francisco, and 50 people have died.

, the focus is on pausing the reopening of restaurants and bars because both activities involve gatherings with people from separate households, all sitting in close proximity and without face masks. Therefore, given the rise in cases, “it would not be responsible to allow indoor dining,” Colfax says.

Regarding bars that do not serve food, Colfax says that outdoor drinking has already been banned for 23 counties across the state, including Marin, Napa, and Contra Costa counties. “If any county in the Bay Area is in trouble,” Colfax said, “we are all in trouble.” (It’s a point that was also raised by Breed, who noted that many people come to San Francisco every day to work, often from counties with far higher infection rates.)

Breed and Colfax emphasized that while the city’s reopening has been halted, all the activities that are currently allowed — such as outdoor dining at restaurants and bars that serve food — will continue. “We are not dialing back,” Colfax says, but “we are not going to rush it further ahead, either.”

That news was welcomed by the Golden Gate Restaurant Association (GGRA), the lobbying group for San Francisco’s restaurant industry. “We are encouraged that outside dining is still allowed,” a GGRA spokesperson said in a text message to Eater SF, but “this is so sad and very concerning financially.”

Though the GGRA says that its “biggest concerns remain with the health of our workers, patrons and residents of the state,” the group also says that “we know that restaurants cannot survive only on take out and outside dining (especially with our somewhat problematic wind/fog that our weather brings in the summer in SF).”

When asked about a possible timeline to reopen dining rooms to escape that fog, Colfax was firm. “Remember, this virus has no timeline,” he said. According to Breed, a pause for now is the only way forward, as “We have no choice. We are living in COVID.”

According to Colfax, San Francisco has “a window now for course correction,” and if the city takes these precautions, “we can again have a thriving economy in San Francisco.”

“I can’t express enough how important it is to wear your mask whenever possible, especially when around other people,” Colfax said. “Avoid gatherings. Stay home whenever possible.”

Here’s the full announcement from Mayor London Breed’s office

Mayor London N. Breed and Director of Health Dr. Grant Colfax announced today that the City will temporarily delay allowing indoor dining and outdoor bars to reopen on July 13, due to a rise in COVID-19 transmission, cases and hospitalizations in San Francisco.

The City is currently evaluating other businesses that had been proposed to reopen between June 29 and July 13, including hair salons, barber shops, indoor museums, outdoor pools, gyms, real estate open houses by appointment, and zoos, as part of the Phase 2C reopening. An update on the status of reopening these businesses will be provided by the end of the week. Businesses and activities that are currently allowed may continue operating at this time. The City continues to encourage San Franciscans to avoid gatherings, wear face coverings when leaving home, and get tested for COVID-19.

“We know the pause on reopening is disappointing, but it is in the best interest of public health,” said Mayor Breed. “We’ll continue to make decisions based on the data and the situation in our city, and in the meantime, we all need to do our part to keep each other safe and healthy. That means wearing face coverings, keeping your distance from others, and getting tested. We know that is what is needed in order to get us to a place where we can safely resume reopening.”

As of this morning, San Francisco had recorded 4,020 cases of COVID-19, and 50 deaths. One of the key indicators of COVID-19 prevalence in the city, the number of new cases per day per 100,000 people, had risen to 6.1, well above the goal of 1.8 and a sharp rise since we began reopening on May 18, when it was 3.5. The rate of increase in hospitalizations of COVID-19 patients is also a key indicator that affects the pace of reopening. Our goal is to keep that rate below 10%, and today’s indicator shows an increase of 25%. Our hospital capacity, which includes the percentage of acute care and ICU beds that are available, is currently within acceptable range at 35% for acute care beds and 30% for ICU, but could be quickly filled in a surge of COVID-19 cases. Modeling indicates that the reproductive rate of the virus is climbing above 1, meaning that each person with COVID-19 is infecting more than 1 other person and contributing to a rapid spread of the virus that could overwhelm our hospital system, as it has in other parts of the state and country.

“When we examine the health indicators, the regional picture, and what we are learning about the reproductive rate of COVID-19 in our community, we are forced to conclude that it would not be responsible to move forward with indoor dining or outdoor bars on Monday,” said Dr. Colfax. “We understand the importance of planning for businesses, and the urgent need that all residents have to get back to work and the new normal. However, the virus has no timeline and spreads quickly when people gather, and we must do everything we can to slow the spread. We also know that safely reopening San Francisco, with a healthy population and a renewed economy, is still possible as long as we all do our part.”

The gradual reopening of local businesses has been on pause since June 26 and will resume when the data indicate that conditions have improved.

“Even though a pause in reopening is disappointing, the resurgence we see in cases and hospitalizations reminds us of why it’s important not to lose sight that we are in the middle of an active global pandemic and why it’s critical that we approach reopening in a measured way driven by facts on the ground,” said Assessor Carmen Chu, co-chair of the Economic Recovery Task Force. “We must continue to do everything we can to support our local economy and small businesses while protecting the health of workers and the public — as individuals, this means keeping safe distances and wearing face coverings.”

“To support the safe reopening of our economy, and for the benefit of workers and small businesses, it is vital we take countermeasures anytime we see the virus reasserting itself in our community,” said Joaquín Torres, Director of the Office of Economic and Workforce Development. “Every single day counts now, and it’s up to all of us to protect San Francisco’s safety and economy. If we take simple, personal precautions – wear a face covering, wash our hands frequently and keep socially distant – we can quickly, collectively slow the spread, and get back to the important business of reopening.”

More than 20 California counties have been placed on a state “watch list” and some have already had to roll back their reopening. San Francisco is not currently on that list, but several other Bay Area counties are, and because we are part of an interdependent region, our situation is linked together with theirs. San Francisco could join the list if we do not slow the spread of the virus and see a decrease in new cases and hospitalizations. While many San Franciscans avoided gatherings and wore face coverings over the Fourth of July holiday, we may see an increase in cases in the next two to three weeks linked to those who did not follow these safe practices. Everyone’s behavior matters now if we want to slow the spread of the virus and continue reopening.