Online Extra: SF Mayor announces city will begin reopening in June

  • by John Ferrannini, Assistant Editor
  • Thursday May 28, 2020
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In a virtual news conference from City Hall Thursday, San Francisco Mayor London Breed announced that more of the city will reopen starting in June and continuing through August. Photo: Screenshot
In a virtual news conference from City Hall Thursday, San Francisco Mayor London Breed announced that more of the city will reopen starting in June and continuing through August. Photo: Screenshot

Indoor retail businesses, outdoor dining, and other outdoor activities will legally be allowed to resume in San Francisco on June 15, assuming key COVID-19 benchmarks from the state government are met, according to Mayor London Breed.

Speaking at City Hall for the first time in weeks, Breed on May 25 hailed "a great step forward." Breed's many briefings on the pandemic have mostly taken place at Moscone Center, where the city's emergency operations center is located.

"The only reason we are in this situation in the first place is that most San Franciscans took (the stay-at-home order) seriously," Breed said.

The stay-at-home order that expires at the end of this month will be extended indefinitely but the next iteration will include changes from the one that is currently in effect.

Among these, Breed said, is that on Monday, June 1, outdoor museums, botanical gardens, and child care facilities that are currently closed will be allowed to reopen.

On Monday, June 15, most indoor retail stores can reopen, along with outdoor dining, summer camps, sporting events without spectators, and with an approved health plan, religious services, outdoor exercise, and non-emergency medical appointments.

Furthermore, Breed said she has target dates for much of the rest of the economy. She hopes that Monday, July 13, is the date that indoor dining will be able to reopen with modifications (the virus spreads more easily indoors than outdoors), that real estate open houses can resume (with appointments), and that people can once again visit a barber or hair salon.

At some point in mid-August, Breed hopes San Franciscans can see schools re-open, with modifications, as well as bars, nail salons, massage and tattoo parlors, gymnasiums, playgrounds, swimming pools, and indoor museums.

Nobody yet knows when concert venues, festivals, tourist hotels, and nightclubs will be able to reopen, Breed said.

"This plan is going to be flexible, adapt to state guidance and to what we find out about the disease going forward," Carmen Chu, who serves as the city's assessor-recorder, said during the news conference.

Chu is one of the co-chairs of the city's economic recovery task force that was set up in the wake of the pandemic.

Breed thanked San Franciscans for by-and-large complying with the stay-at-home orders. She said she understands the economic toll of the actions, implemented in mid-March, to halt the spread of the novel coronavirus.

"We understand the need for people to get back to work," she said. "The financial health of so many people in San Francisco is in jeopardy."

The city itself is also facing a budget deficit of $1.7 billion over the next two and a half years due to the virus.

Breed said that 100,000 people in San Francisco, about one-ninth of the population, have filed for unemployment due to the COVID-19 crisis.

Whether reopenings will come to pass on the dates announced May 28 will depend on how San Francisco is doing on meeting benchmarks set by Governor Gavin Newsom for the Golden State's 58 counties.

These benchmarks cover coronavirus deaths and hospitalizations, as well as testing capacity and personal protective equipment available in the counties.

"There is some confusion on how the state guidelines are different than the city guidelines," Breed said. "Everyone has a different scenario and a different guide."

In order to slow the spread of the virus and speed up re-opening, Breed emphasized the use of masks in public places. She asked anyone within 30 feet of somebody outside of their household to wear a face covering.

Subsequent to the Thursday afternoon news conference, the mayor's office sent out a news release stating that face coverings will be required for people in San Francisco "on most occasions when they are outside of their homes."

"By strengthening this form of protection, San Franciscans will be better prepared to participate safely in the gradual reopening of activities as we begin to move out of the health emergency," the release states. The order will be effective at the end of Friday, May 29 in most situations.

It does not apply to private offices when nobody else is around, when outside moving around and not within 30 feet of someone else, while driving in a car alone or with another member of one's household, for children 12 years old or younger, while stationary and at least six feet away from people outside one's household, while eating or drinking and six feet away from people outside one's own household, and to people with documented medical exceptions.

Studies show that someone infected with the coronavirus who wears a mask has a significantly less chance of passing it along to others than someone who does not wear a face covering. Many cases of COVID-19 are asymptomatic.

However, Breed said that she wants people to focus on themselves and not on others.

"If you are not the police, please don't act like the police," Breed said. "Just let us do our job. You do your part. These numbers are going down because you are doing your part. The last thing I want to see is a confrontation because someone wanted to go outside and regulate."

Breed declined to criticize counties opening more quickly — Sacramento County, for example, currently allows indoor dining and barbershops. The Bay Area counties that were once unified in their health orders have taken divergent paths.

"San Francisco is a more dense city than other places," Breed said. "The county health officers are working together because as a region we are closely tied to one another."

The city government has been laying the groundwork for plans such as outdoor dining services for some time — as the Bay Area Reporter reported in print May 28, a shared spaces program was created May 26 to allow for the use of streets by restaurants.

"Outdoor dining and shopping should be a centerpiece of our economic recovery this summer," said gay District 8 Supervisor Rafael Mandelman. "The past few months have been awful for most San Francisco small businesses, their employees and the neighborhoods that love them."

"I will continue to work with merchants and the community to make this experiment a success in District 8 commercial corridors in Glen Park, on Church and 24th streets, in the Mission and the Castro," Mandelman added.

As the B.A.R. previously reported, in the Castro this may include Jane Warner Plaza and Castro Street between Market and 19th streets.

Mandelman sits with Breed and Chu on the Economic Recovery Task Force, whose goal is to guide "the city's efforts through the COVID-19 recovery to sustain and revive local businesses and employment, mitigate the economic hardships already affecting the most vulnerable San Franciscans, and build a resilient and equitable future," according to a city website.

Chu said that just as San Francisco has received national recognition for its prompt response to the threat posed by COVID-19, she hopes it leads again in providing a model for reopening.

"There is no reason that San Francisco and the Bay Area can't lead again with a thoughtful and responsive approach to reopening the economy," Chu said.

Updated, 5/28/20: This article has been updated with new guidance on face coverings.

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