Guest Opinion: COVID-19: It's time to help, here's how

  • by Joe D'Alessandro
  • Monday March 9, 2020
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Joe D'Alessandro, president and CEO of SF Travel. Photo: Courtesy SF Travel
Joe D'Alessandro, president and CEO of SF Travel. Photo: Courtesy SF Travel

Thanks to the ongoing work of the San Francisco Department of Public Health and the San Francisco Department of Emergency Management, we are all aware of how we can be active participants in ending the spread of the coronavirus (COVID-19), including:

- Wash your hands thoroughly and often

- Cough or sneeze into your elbow, not your hands

- If you're sick, stay home

There's one more thing that we can do to help make the situation better — "visit" San Francisco.

Even before the first coronavirus cases in San Francisco were confirmed on March 5, seven conventions had either canceled or rescheduled. That means that 182,046 hotel room nights went unsold, representing nearly $138 million in lost revenue to hotels, restaurants, attractions, retail, and tax collections.

Others soon followed.

Another kind of loss has developed, one very surprising for a city known for its diversity and inclusion. People have been avoiding Chinatown as if the virus that first appeared in Wuhan, China suddenly landed in this historic Asian neighborhood. Restaurants and shops that rely heavily on visitor business are struggling to keep their doors open.

Read my lips: There is no reason to avoid Chinatown.

Now is the time for healthy San Franciscans — which is most of us — to get out and rediscover our city. Here are my suggestions:

Take a staycation

Spend the night in a local hotel.

You know you deserve it. Is there a place that holds special meaning for you and your partner? Have you experienced the newer hotels in town? There are last-minute deals and excellent values available when you book through our official site,

Dine out

Get reservations at those restaurants you love or have been meaning to try.

San Francisco and the Bay Area have more Michelin three-star restaurants than any other city in the United States. Sixty-eight percent of the Michelin stars in California are here.

Did you know that there are 30 semi-finalists for the James Beard Awards in the Bay Area? Check it out at

Enjoy the extra elbow room at the museums

Don't miss "Levi Strauss: A History of American Style" at the Contemporary Jewish Museum. This exhibition tells the distinctly American story of Levi Strauss — a Jewish immigrant, businessman, and philanthropist whose lifelong commitment to family and civic life were fundamental to the history of San Francisco. Starting with the company's foundation and early local renown as purveyors of "waist overalls" for gold miners and famously indestructible garments for farmers and tradespeople, the exhibition follows the evolution of Levis Strauss & Co.

Continuing into the early 20th century, the exhibition illuminates the pivotal role Levi Strauss & Co. played — through finely crafted clothing and advertising — in capturing the expanding mythology of the American West. The exhibition culminates in the second half of the 20th century, when the democratic blue jean became a cultural staple and a blank canvas for the rising international youth culture — a symbol of effortless cool for youth, rockers, and revolutionaries alike.

Beginning March 21, you can see "Frida Kahlo: Appearances Can Be Deceiving" at the de Young Museum. In 1930, Kahlo, a bi artist, first visited the United States, traveling to San Francisco with her husband, Diego Rivera. Ninety years later she returns to the de Young museum in this exhibition. Offering an intimate perspective on the iconic artist and examining how politics, gender, trauma, sexuality, and national identity influenced Kahlo's diverse modes of creativity, the exhibition showcases a trove of the artist's personal items from the Frida Kahlo Museum in Mexico City, including photographs, clothing, jewelry and hand-painted orthopedic corsets, alongside about 20 of Kahlo's paintings and drawings.

Beginning March 25, the Museum of the African Diaspora (MoAD) will feature Sam Vernon's "Impasse of Desire." This is a site-specific installation by Vernon, a San Francisco-based artist. Using Matt Richardson's "The Queer Limit of Black Memory" as a primary source for this project, Vernon uses the first-floor gallery space to interrogate the boundaries and possibilities of queer representation within the museum. Her installations combine Xeroxed drawings, photographs, and sculptural components in an exploration of personal narrative and identity.

Take a walk

How well do you really know Castro Street? Fillmore? Clement? Divisadero? 24th? Have you been to Dogpatch lately? The Inner Richmond? The Outer Sunset? Take a springtime stroll in the fresh air and stop in at the local shops and businesses. They will be so happy to see you.

Get out of town

Book a flight at San Francisco International Airport. Sadly, I hear there is plenty of room.

If you fly JetBlue, Southwest, or Delta, you'll depart and arrive through the new Harvey Milk Terminal, Terminal 1.

The airport and airlines are following long lists of protocols to protect passengers and staff against the novel coronavirus (COVID-19). If you're still feeling stressed about flying, look for the Wag Brigade and get some puppy love.

Our community excels at rising to the occasion and supporting those in need. During this unpredictable time, I encourage you to take action to keep our tourism economy healthy, while taking good care of yourselves.

Joe D'Alessandro, a gay man, is president and CEO of San Francisco Travel.