'We are in Trouble': SF Backslides into Purple Tier; Enacts Tighter Restrictions

Updated: Dec 5, 2020

  • San Francisco was placed in California's purple tier, the most restrictive COVID-19 risk tier, amid a nationwide surge

  • Public health experts anticipate a further surge in COVID-19 cases in the wake of the Thanksgiving holiday, during which many people gathered against the advice of health officials

  • San Francisco rolled back certain activities on Nov. 28, and announced a three-week lockdown, which shutters outdoor dining and other activities, effective Dec. 6 through Jan. 4


San Francisco was placed into California's most restrictive COVID-19 risk tier, requiring a further rollback of certain activities, and is rolling out further restrictions in advance of an expected case surge in the coming weeks.


New infections have more than quadrupled over the past month, representing the most aggressive surge the City has seen this year, and City officials warned that a further spike could result in a shortage of hospital beds.


"We are in trouble, and we are sounding the alarm," said Mayor London Breed at a press conference on Tuesday.


Breed and Dr. Grant Colfax, San Francisco Director of Health, indicated on Tuesday that the City may face further restrictions, in addition to several rollbacks announced just days ago upon entering California's 'purple' risk tier. Additional measures could include a mandatory travel quarantine similar to the one nearby Santa Clara county, which requires that persons traveling into the area by any means quarantine for 14 days upon arrival.


On Friday, City officials announced a three-week stay-home order, effective Dec. 6 through Jan. 4, which shuts down indoor personal care services, outdoor restaurant operations and entertainment centers, and other activities. Several other Bay Area counties are also subject to the stay-home order.


Health officials warned that without more drastic action, San Francisco's ICU beds could run out by Dec. 26.


"It is not inevitable; we can slow the spread," said Colfax, strongly urging people not to gather with people outside their households.


With cases surging, San Francisco was already facing its most restrictive climate in months.


Effective Nov. 29, San Francisco enacted tighter restrictions on certain activities until COVID-19 cases recede: Indoor venues including gyms, movie theaters, museums, aquariums and houses of worship must again close temporarily, according to the updated guidelines. Indoor retail, including pharmacies and hardware stores, may operate at 25% capacity, and grocery stores may operate at 50% capacity. 'Standalone' outdoor activities, such as ferris wheels and carousels, must also close. Other outdoor activities such as playgrounds, skate parks and batting cages may remain open.


San Francisco is also now subject to California's stay-at-home order, which prohibits dining, outdoor gatherings and other activities outside of the home from 10PM until 5AM daily.


Schools that have already reopened for in-person instruction may remain open, under the City's current guidelines, and others can apply to reopen for either indoor or outdoor instruction through the San Francisco Department of Public Health.


San Francisco joins numerous other counties in California's purple tier, which indicates "widespread" presence of COVID-19, as cases and deaths surge nationwide. As of Nov. 28, all but seven counties across the state were assigned to the purple tier.


Public health experts are bracing for a continued case surge in the wake of the Thanksgiving holiday weekend, during which millions of people traveled against the advice of health officials.


"As a result of these holiday related action, unfortunately, we know that the worst is likely yet to come," said Colfax. "We do not expect this to stabilize anytime soon."

Image by Jake Buonemani
Image by Rasmus Gundorff Sæderup
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