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In response to surging cases, San Francisco has slipped back two tiers in the state’s four-tiered reopening guideline, requiring city officials to tighten restrictions on many businesses and activities. 

Of the nine Bay Area counties, four are now in the red tier and five are sitting in the most restrictive purple tier. Statewide, only two counties now qualify for the least restrictive yellow tier. 

San Francisco was the first Bay Area city to hit the yellow tier on the state’s Blueprint for a Safer Economy guideline, which allowed additional businesses to reopen at higher capacity and more activities to resume. But after the downgrade, city officials are required to again impose greater restrictions. 

Mayor London Breed said Monday at a press conference that non-essential offices will have to completely close and gym capacity will be reduced to 10 percent. The changes go into effect Tuesday.

Jesse Garnier/SFBay A sign reminding the public to maintain social distancing is seen along The Embarcadero near Pier 14 in San Francisco, Calif. on Saturday, March 28, 2020.

A travel advisory has been issued by the Department of Public Health urging residents to avoid travel as Thanksgiving approaches. County officials across the Bay Area have agreed that guidance is the best course of action. Breed said residents should refrain from hosting and attending large gatherings of family and friends next week, adding:

“What we’re asking people to do is sacrifice. Sacrifice and put off the things that we all know and love, especially during the holiday season for the sole purpose of trying to get to a better place.”

Data from the Department of Public Health reflects a case rate of 10.4 per 100,000 residents with a rolling seven-day average of 91 new cases per day. Breed said:

“This is where we are now. This is me sounding the alarm.”

Public health Director Dr. Grant Colfax said it took 29 days for The City to go from 11,000 to 12,000 cases and 18 days to go from 12,000 to 13,000 cases. He anticipates it will only take 12 days to grow from 13,000 to 14,000 cases.

Colfax echoed the DPH travel warning, saying:

“The safest way to celebrate Thanksgiving is just stay home with members of your own household, don’t expose your loved ones around a holiday dinner table.”

He said that residents should not rely on Covid-19 testing to determine if it’s safe to travel, adding:

“Please remember that people who test negative can still harbor the virus if they are early in their infection.”

Anticipating a move backward in the state’s tier system, city officials got a head start last week by proactively shutting down indoor dining operations.

Jesse Garnier Bay Area Covid-19 cases by day as of Monday November 16, 2020 when the state made sweeping tier designation changes, placing five Bay Area counties into the most restrictive tier and four in the red tier.

The City’s case rate surge is not happening in a vacuum. Several Bay Area counties — Alameda, Contra Costa, Napa, Santa Clara and Solano counties — are moving back to the state’s most restrictive purple tier that, in part, prohibits non-essential office work and knocks down capacity permitted inside retail establishments.

Those five counties are also required to shut down indoor dining, worship, movie theaters and gyms, and gatherings will be limited to three or less households in outdoor settings only. 

San Mateo and Marin counties have moved from the orange to red tier, and Sonoma County remains unchanged in the purple tier, where it’s been for several weeks.

Nik Wojcik Sonoma County Covid-19 cases by day as of Monday, November 16, 2020.

A total of 41 counties in the state are now in the purple tier compared to just 13 last week. Gov. Gavin Newsom said during a Covid-19 press conference Monday that the state’s cases have doubled in the last 10 days.

In the U.S., Colfax said the virus is spiking in every state:

“In the last two weeks, new Covid cases in the United States have increased by 80 percent and deaths have increased by almost 38 percent.”

While The City is behind the nation’s trend in cases per 100,000 residents, Colfax said:

“That is no reason for us to believe that we couldn’t catch up to that average and catch up quickly.”

Since mid-March, The City has reported a total of 13,756 confirmed cases and 156 deaths caused by Covid-19 as of Nov. 13.


Nik Wojcik contributed to this report.

Jerold Chinn
Jerold Chinn covers transportation and City Hall in San Francisco for SF Bay. Email: jerold@sfbay.ca. Twitter: @Jerold_Chinn. Instagram: jeroldwashere.

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