News Briefs: SF to end COVID health emergency

  • by Cynthia Laird, News Editor
  • Wednesday February 22, 2023
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An early COVID testing site operated in April 2020 in San Francisco's Mission neighborhood at Parque Niños Unidos. Photo: Liz Highleyman<br>
An early COVID testing site operated in April 2020 in San Francisco's Mission neighborhood at Parque Niños Unidos. Photo: Liz Highleyman

The San Francisco Department of Public Health has announced that the city's COVID-19 public health emergency declaration will end February 28.

Along with the declaration, Health Officer Order No. C19-07y, "Safer Return Together," as well as additional health orders, will also end that day, according to a news release. The moves put San Francisco in alignment with California, which will end its state of emergency the same day, as Governor Gavin Newsom announced last October.

Local health officials stressed that COVID continues to impact the city.

"While the threat from COVID-19 is not over, as both the virus and the tools to respond to it have evolved over the past three years, San Francisco is now in a significantly better position than at any prior time in the pandemic due to the city's high vaccination and booster rates and the availability of effective COVID treatments," DPH stated.

Health Officer Dr. Susan Philip will rescind the Safer Return Together order, but she intends to issue new orders that will affect hospitals, skilled nursing facilities, and other health care and jail settings, the release stated. Under the order, staff in these settings will still be required to wear a mask when interacting with patients, clients, or people who are incarcerated. Masking requirements for the general public will end, DPH stated. Additionally, masking requirements in homeless shelters for both the general public and staff will end. These changes go into effect March 1, the release stated.

Those who operate health care or jail facilities can decide to be more restrictive than local health guidelines and may still implement their own requirements, according to DPH.

People can continue to choose to wear masks around others in any setting for added protection and people should respect other people's choices around their health, the release noted.

The health department added that it will be monitoring the ongoing national discussions about COVID vaccination schedules and will adjust the existing local vaccination requirements once federal and state recommendations are made.

"Today's announcement is a testament to the extraordinary efforts of San Francisco residents, and to the progress that we have made collectively as a city to prevent the worst of COVID-19," Philip stated February 16.

Health officials noted that it remains important for individuals to be diligent about their health and the health of others as the virus is still here. People should stay home if they are sick, continue to wash hands, and keep well-fitted masks, such as N95, KN95, or KF94, on hand.

DPH also encourages people to seek out COVID resources such as at-home tests, treatments for those who test positive, and the updated bivalent booster, which is currently free. Information on these resources can be found here.

In terms of the federal health emergency, President Joe Biden recently announced it would end May 11.

Valentino Carrillo stood inside the not-yet-open Que Rico Nightclub and Restaurant in 2021. Photo: Cynthia Laird  

Gay-owned Oakland eatery marks 3 years with giveaway
La Frontera Mexican Restaurant in Oakland, popular for its quesabirrias and burritos, will celebrate its third anniversary Tuesday, February 28, and will give away free quesabirrias to the first 100 customers starting at 6 p.m.

When the COVID pandemic hit, La Frontera owner Valentino Carrillo, a gay man, was uncertain if the eatery would stay open, as the Bay Area Reporter noted in a profile on him in 2021. According to a news release, La Frontera did close for two weeks in March 2020 while Carrillo decided on the direction to take the restaurant. With a background in marketing, Carrillo reopened and saw the restaurant gain in popularity on DoorDash, helping Carrillo go from six to over 20 employees during most of the pandemic, the release noted.

Carrillo also owns the LGBTQ Que Rico Nightclub in downtown Oakland, which opened in 2021, as the B.A.R. previously reported. He serves on the board of the Oakland Latino Chamber of Commerce and the board of Pridefest Oakland. He recently received the Latino chamber's Entrepreneurship and Community Excellence Award.

La Frontera is located at 4481 International Boulevard. The anniversary party runs from 6 to 11 p.m. and will feature a DJ and a drag performance at 9.

AIDS society to rotate all conferences
The International AIDS Society has announced that its three conferences will rotate to all regions of the world and that they will continue to offer virtual participation.

The in-person components of the International AIDS Conference, the IAS Conference on HIV Science, and the HIV Research for Prevention Conference will rotate among five world regions — Africa, Asia and the Pacific, Europe, Latin America and the Caribbean, and the U.S. and Canada — and will not take place consecutively in any region, a news release stated.

AIDS 2024, the International AIDS Conference, will take place in Munich, Germany and virtually next July 22-26. Pre-conferences are set to start July 20.

"The global rotation will help ensure that people from around the world have an opportunity to participate in our conferences in person," IAS President Sharon Lewin stated. "It will also allow us to shine a spotlight on critical HIV issues in every region."

The IAS will invite bids from potential host cities in Africa for IAS 2025, the 13th IAS Conference on HIV Science, and from cities in Latin America and the Caribbean for AIDS 2026, according to the release. This year's HIV science conference will be held in Brisbane, Australia in July. The next research for prevention conference takes place in 2024 in Lima, Peru.

The society stated that due to Munich's proximity to eastern Europe with its rapidly growing HIV epidemic, AIDS 2024 will feature a third co-chair, Andriy Klepikov, representing eastern Europe. Klepikov will join co-chairs Lewin and Christoph Spinner, the release noted.

"Munich — Kyiv's official partner city — offers a safe and welcoming space for conference delegates who hail from this region and beyond, including people living with and affected by HIV," Klepikov stated. "AIDS 2024 will provide an opportunity to shine a spotlight on one of the fastest-growing HIV epidemics in the world, driven by a lack of access to health services for people who use drugs and exacerbated by the disruption and instability of the war in Ukraine, mass migration, and faltering economies."

In addition to the virtual options for conferences, IAS will continue to offer scholarships to ensure that travel and cost barriers don't prevent people from the most affected regions of the world from attending. It will also offer discounted registration rates for young people and people from lower-income countries up to 90% below the full registration fee, the release stated.

For more information about the society, click here. For more information on AIDS 2024, click here.

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