Following the closure of marijuana dispensaries and delivery services in San Francisco per the regionwide shelter-in-place order that began Tuesday in response to the novel coronavirus, city officials announced the businesses could reopen.

Mayor London Breed said during a news conference at City Hall late Tuesday:

“The Department of Public Health today clarified that since marijuana has medical uses, dispensaries will be allowed to operate as essential businesses just as pharmacies are allowed to do.”

The health department initially ordered dispensaries and delivery services closed Monday night.

Under the three-week stay-at-home order, grocery stores and pharmacies, among other businesses, were listed as essential businesses that could stay open, but the order didn’t identify cannabis dispensaries.

Advocates with San Francisco-based cannabis advocacy organization Cal NORML called for their reopening Tuesday morning, citing severely ill patients who needed access to medication.

Supervisor Matt Haney said on Twitter in response to the reopening:

“SFDPH has reversed their position.”

Haney had earlier voiced support for the reopening of cannabis businesses:

“We know cannabis has medicinal value for so many people and should remain open. They’ll be open for delivery and pick up.”

SJSU student tests positive

A San Jose State University student has tested positive for novel coronavirus, the university said in a message to the campus Tuesday night.

The student lives off-campus and is recovering from home, according to university officials, who will not be providing further information about the student. The university suspended all in-person classes last week.

The campus message said:

“In moments like these, the university will protect the privacy rights of individual students while also ensuring the health of our broader community. … SJSU will determine whether there are members of the campus community that need to be advised of their contact with this individual.”

SJSU is located in Santa Clara County, the worst-affected region in the Bay Area. The county announced its fifth death due to coronavirus Tuesday, and said cases have increased to 155. Along with neighboring counties, it began a shelter-in-place order Tuesday that will remain in effect until at least April 7.

Giants pledge $1 million toward stadium workers

The San Francisco Giants announced the establishment of a $1 million fund on Tuesday to support Oracle Park event staff during Major League Baseball’s 2020 season postponement due to the spread of novel coronavirus.

The ball club plans to ask its ownership group and business partners to contribute to the fund, in addition to its $1 million pledge. The league’s other 29 teams have also expressed their intent to launch similar funds for event staff as the coronavirus’ spread prompts bans of large gatherings across the country.

Giants President and CEO Larry Baer said in a statement:

“Our event staff is the heart and soul of Oracle Park. … During these challenging times, we want to provide peace of mind and support to our event staff employees so they can focus on their family and loved ones.”

MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred announced Monday that the league would push opening day back to mid-May at the earliest, following the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s release of revised coronavirus guidelines restricting events of more than 50 people for the next two months.

The city and county of San Francisco also announced a shelter-in-place order Monday that will last through April 7, and potentially much longer, further restricting the ability of Oracle Park event staff to work and earn income.

The Giants plan to finish finalizing the details of the fund in the coming days and will communicate the details directly with event staff.

Oakland shutters government buildings

Government buildings will be closed to the public and parking enforcement will be limited in Oakland during a regionwide shelter-in-place order that went into effect Tuesday in response to the spread of novel coronavirus.

Civic Center at Frank H. Ogawa Plaza will be closed, and members of the public can only access City Hall and other buildings by appointment or for public meetings.

Parking meters and time-limited parking will not be enforced, but enforcement of parking violations and towing will continue for red curbs, street sweeping, crosswalk blocking, wheelchair ramp obstruction, unauthorized used of disabled placards and other public safety concerns.

Oakland police, fire, emergency personnel and other essential services will continue to operate during the shelter-in-place order.

Interim City Administrator Steven Falk said in a news release:

“We recognize these closures and service modifications have direct impacts on our employees and the community we serve. … It is our goal to keep employees working – remotely where possible – to the greatest extent possible and consistent with public health guidance, and to ensure that first responders have the resources and support they need so they can continue to best serve the residents of Oakland.”

The shelter-in-place order was instituted across Alameda County and its neighboring regions Tuesday, and will remain in effect until at least April 7.

Local theater goes dark amid virus fears

The impact of Covid-19 coronavirus is having a devastating effect on Bay Area theater companies, with cancellations, postponements, and a general sense of anxiety sending waves of uncertainty throughout the industry.

Under orders from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and local municipalities enforcing shelter-in-place edicts, one theater organization after another has been shuttered, with closures affecting top professional companies and community theaters alike — while representatives on all sides say that staying in business is going to be a monumental challenge in the weeks and months to come.

In San Francisco, the American Conservatory Theater has canceled its remaining performances of “Gloria” and “Toni Stone.” Berkeley Repertory Theatre has gone on hiatus through April 15, canceling “Culture Clash (Still) in America” and “School Girls; Or, the African Mean Girls Play.” Both companies have pledged to make recordings of these productions available to ticket-holders.

Dozens of other companies, from San Francisco Playhouse to San Jose’s City Lights Theater, have canceled or postponed shows.

At Berkeley’s Aurora Theatre, the company had just begun rehearsals for Joe Orton’s “Loot” when the shutdown order arrived. In an interview earlier this week, Artistic Director Josh Costello said there was no choice but to comply, although letting the cast, crew, director and designers go was painful:

“It’s a really big hit. … and what I’m most worried about is the artists. It’s not like they can find jobs at other theaters right now.”

Shuttering also meant canceling a rare revival of “Loot,” which has been seldom seen in the Bay Area. Costello said that actor Danny Scheie had traveled to England to visit the Orton archives and had researched an uncensored manuscript of the play. He and artistic director emeritus Tom Ross had been poring over it, said Costello:

“It was going to be the first time in America that this dialogue was heard.”

Now, Costello’s not sure when — or if — Aurora will return to it.

Marilyn Langbehn, executive artistic director of El Cerrito’s Contra Costa Civic Theatre, faced a similar hard decision with her company’s new production of Kenneth Lonergan’s “The Waverly Gallery.” The show’s tech rehearsal was March 8; within the next few days, she was forced to cancel the show’s opening night.

Like Costello, she’s unsure if the production can be revived. Her venue, she explained, has events on the schedule fifty weeks a year, with children’s classes and drama camps filling many slots; the next open date was May 1.

Langbehn said:

“Now everyone’s playing Tetris to see what can be done. … If there’s a way to salvage it, we will.”

Patrick Dooley, founder and artistic director of Berkeley’s Shotgun Players, was readying a new production of Shakespeare’s “Henry V” when the orders came down. The show was 24 hours away from its first performance, and Dooley said reviving it post-shutdown is unlikely:

“It’s a large cast. … and maintaining salaries and costs, and keeping people here who have plans for the summer would make it next to impossible.”

Susan Evans, the director of Lafayette’s Town Hall Theatre, echoed Dooley’s concerns. Her company was six performances into Chekhov’s “The Cherry Orchard” when the shutdown came; the remaining six performances were canceled. Evans said:

“It was a huge blow, financially and emotionally. … and it’s really not something we can go back to.”

Theatergoers are often unaware of what goes into a production — we see actors onstage and occasionally meet the director. But productions depend on scenic, lighting, and costume designers, fight directors, house staff, box office managers and more. “Waverly” has a five-member cast, notes Langbehn, but the production reflected the work of more than forty people.

Each director said that theater closures are making the future uncertain. Langbehn said:

“It’s such uncharted territory. … We’re all making it up as we go.”

Dooley agreed. There’s a lot of anxiety in the theater community these days, he said; this year’s state Assembly Bill 5, which affects gig workers including those in theater, has added a layer of complication, where losing a single production can break individuals and companies:

“When you cut salaries back, you know people are going to leave and get other jobs. … I used to wait tables — now restaurants are closing, too.”

At Shotgun, he’s planning to cut design expenses, “put the resources where we can, do simple, spare productions.” Shakespeare turned to writing sonnets when the Globe Theater closed during the bubonic plague, notes Dooley, who said he’s contemplating a recording series with Shotgun actors reading those works.

What can theater lovers do? Donate pre-ordered tickets back, or make one-time cash donations; consider subscribing to next season now.

And, as Langbehn said:

“When this is over, come back.”

While each director said their companies are considering streaming, web casts, and recordings in lieu of live performances, at least one said that small companies are much less likely to obtain streaming rights.

And streaming, Evans said, always remains a second choice:

“In the short term, maybe. … But it can never take the place of live theater. Live theater is a communal experience. If you take half of it away, you’ve lost a big chunk of it.”

SF accelerates hiring of healthcare workers

In response to the Covid-19 coronavirus pandemic, San Francisco Mayor London Breed on Tuesday issued a declaration to expedite the hiring of more healthcare workers.

The city will fill 100 nursing vacancies through invitation-only hiring events, with a focus on emergency and intensive care unit nurses, according to the declaration. New nurses could be hired on-the-spot instead of going through the normal six-month long hiring process.

Dr. Susan Philip, San Francisco Department of Public Health deputy health doctor, said during a news conference along with Mayor Breed late Tuesday:

“Healthcare workers are courageously on the frontlines keeping our community safe and healthy every day.”

Philip said:

“Today’s action will allow us to bring on more nurses quickly to be prepared to meet the demands of the response and to augment and support the workforce that is already there in place working hard every day, often overtime, extra days in order to staff our hospitals and clinics.”

In response to the first day of the three-week stay-at-home order, which took effect Tuesday for San Francisco and several other Bay Area counties, San Francisco Police Department Police Chief Bill Scott said officers began doing bar and restaurant checks at midnight.

Scott said:

“I’m happy to report we had no issues last night. I can’t guarantee that we checked every bar in The City but we checked every bar that we could and every restaurant that we could, and I’m very pleased to say that by and large San Francisco is adhering to this order.”

Scott reminded residents that non-compliance with the order could result in a misdemeanor, if enforced:

“As a last resort, we will be prepared to enforce.”

Mayor Breed thanked residents for following the shelter-in-place order as the number of confirmed citywide cases rose to 43 on Tuesday, however, she also cautioned citizens to be prepared for changing circumstances:

“We should prepare for the fact that kids may not be able to go back to school and finish up the school year, and what are the alternatives? … This is significant and we want people to understand the severity.”

Mayor Breed also clarified that the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency would waive tickets issued Tuesday related to street sweeping and stop issuing them for the time being. But she asked residents who are able to move their cars to do so:

“It helps us to continue to keep the streets clean as much as we possibly can.”

Additionally, earlier in the day, Breed announced the city would place a moratorium on commercial evictions for small and medium-size businesses unable to pay rent as a result of being impacted by the virus.

Palo Alto offers utility relief

Palo Alto is introducing a support call center and utility payment relief programs for residents on Wednesday as it responds to the spread of novel coronavirus in the Bay Area’s epicenter for the pandemic, Santa Clara County.

The city will implement a temporary ban on shut-offs for nonpayment, extend repayment plans and expand rate assistance programs based on medical and financial need. Residents can also access an existing program, Project Pledge, to support one-time bill payment funded by customer donations.

Santa Clara County announced its fifth death from coronavirus on Tuesday, and an updated number of 155 infected patients. It is currently the worst-affected region in the Bay Area, and has been joined by nearly every neighboring county in implementing shelter-in-place orders through April 7.

Essential services will remain open, like hospitals, pharmacies, gas stations and grocery stores, but other stores and businesses will be closed.

The community support call center will be activated Wednesday at (650) 272-3181, and will be open Monday to Friday between 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. The city’s online hub for information related to coronavirus at www.cityofpaloalto.org/coronavirus.

Bay Area COVID-19 update: schools may stay closed through year, Santa Clara death toll rises, people step up to feed kids

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