Fears about a new COVID variant have been swirling in the news the last few weeks, and unfortunately, it’s now official: The first confirmed case of the omicron variant has been detected in the United States, and it’s right here in San Francisco.
The California and San Francisco Departments of Public Health sent out a joint statement confirming that the new variant has landed in the Bay, saying a San Francisco resident traveling from South Africa returned with it on November 22. Apparently the individual was vaccinated, although it’s unclear whether or not they received a booster. UCSF handled the genomic sequencing, which was confirmed by the CDC. Of course, there may well be more undetected cases across the country, but SF is the first to officially confirm.
In a joint press conference on the steps of City Hall, Mayor London Breed, health director Dr. Grant Colfax, and other city officials continued to encourage everyone to get vaccinated, get boosters, and wear masks. “San Francisco has one of the highest vaccination rates and lowest death rates in the country because of the actions our residents have taken from the beginning of this pandemic to keep each other safe,” Breed said in a statement, referring to the stat that 81 percent of eligible San Franciscans are now vaccinated. “We knew that it was only a matter of time until the omicron variant was detected in our city, and the work that we have done to this point has prepared us to handle this variant. We continue to encourage everyone to get vaccinated, get boosted, and take steps to keep each other safe.” (For what it’s worth, the mayor was just spotted not wearing a mask — again — in a nightclub, so she may continue to face criticism.)
While a new variant arriving just in time for the holidays may unnerve some people, especially after the full lockdown in San Francisco last December (exactly a year ago this week), officials confirmed there are no changes to local mandates at this time, which means business as usual for local restaurants. San Francisco still has both a vaccine mandate and a mask mandate in place, so diners are already in the habit of carrying cards and masking up before stepping inside a restaurant. And of course, there’s always the option to dine outdoors, as rooftops and parklets continue to proliferate, should you feel more comfortable.