San Francisco is seeing its lowest number of Covid-19 hospitalizations and daily new cases since the winter surge. That progress enabled The City’s Tuesday move to the orange tier in the state’s reopening blueprint. Santa Clara and Marin counties joined San Francisco in the new designation.

Department of Public Health Director Dr. Grant Colfax said at a press conference Tuesday that there were only 35 Covid-19 patients across hospitals citywide and that the average new cases per day has dropped to approximately 31. Tuesday’s data marks the lowest hospitalization rate in four months and the lowest daily case rate since Jan. 8 when the average new cases per day peaked at 374, he said.

Beginning Wednesday, a number of restrictions will begin to loosen.

Under the orange tier, non-essential offices with 20 or more employees can reopen at 25 percent capacity, including meeting and conference rooms.

Mayor London Breed said she is excited that offices will reopen after more than a year of closure.

She said:

“I’m tired of working from home. I think when we start to reopen, more and more people are going to want to return to work and want to be around other folks.”

The mayor expressed hope that employees will return to the office, especially in the downtown area, adding:

“I want to see the city jumping again and so San Francisco is going to come alive.”

It’s unclear how many companies will reopen physical offices — many employers have indicated they will allow their employees to continue working from home. 

Bars without food service will now be able to serve alcohol outdoors. Capacity will increase to 50 percent for several indoor activities and businesses, such as dining, personal care services, museums, zoos and aquariums, will increase to 50 percent. Additionally, retailers in the orange tier can operate at 100 percent capacity.

California Department of Public Health San Francisco, Marin and Santa Clara counties move into the orange tier of the state’s Blueprint for a Safer Economy Tuesday, March 23, 2021.

Breed said The City will continue reopening with “caution” and may not immediately implement everything permitted under the state guidelines.

She said:

“…We don’t want to go backwards.”

Colfax also urged residents to use caution in light of Covid-19 variants, adding that The City is not immune to fourth surge similar to what’s been seen in Italy and in other U.S. states, including Michigan, New Jersey and New York.

Colfax said:

“Without more vaccines and with the threat of variance, we need to double down on all of our safety measures that we know work to spread to stop the spread of the disease.”

The City is administering an average of 8,600 vaccine doses a day, he said.

So far, 37 percent of residents over the age of 16 have received at least one dose of the vaccine, according to data from DPH. More than half of the population over the age of 65 have now completed the vaccination series.

Colfax said:

“Now we’re at the point in this marathon with just a few more miles to go to where I think we can see a finish line to victory in sight.”

San Mateo County entered the orange tier last week. Alameda, Contra Costa, Sonoma and Solano counties remain in the red tier, though moves to the orange tier are soon expected. 

The California Department of Public Health said a total of nine counties moved into a less restrictive tier Tuesday and only eight counties remain in the most restrictive purple tier, though only two have reached the least restrictive yellow tier.

Gov. Gavin Newsom said last week that he anticipates the state will open vaccine eligibility to all residents over the age of 16 in a little more than five weeks.

Jerold Chinn
Jerold Chinn is the San Francisco Bureau Chief of SFBay and covers transportation and City Hall. He has spent a decade covering transportation in San Francisco. Jerold is a San Francisco native and frequently takes public transit everywhere he goes. Follow Jerold on Twitter @jerold_chinn. Email tips to jerold@sfbay.ca.

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