San Francisco pausing reopening despite low COVID-19 transmission

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- San Francisco is pausing its reopening plan despite low COVID-19 numbers, Mayor London Breed announced in a press conference Friday.

San Francisco is in the most lenient of the state's reopening tiers, "yellow." It's the only urban area in California to achieve that status.

That being said, San Francisco hasn't gone full steam ahead yet on reopening all that it's allowed to. The city has reopened gyms, indoor restaurants and movie theaters in recent weeks, but is keeping everything at a relatively low capacity.

MAP: CA counties that can, can't reopen under new rules

The city was planning to open indoor pools, bowling alleys and locker rooms at gyms, but Mayor Breed said it was putting a pause on those plans out of an abundance of caution. She said a slight uptick in hospitalizations was particularly concerning.

"We're still in the middle of a pandemic," said Breed. "We are tired of COVID-19 but COVID-19 is not tired of us."

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San Francisco is pausing its reopening plan despite low COVID-19 numbers, Mayor London Breed announced in a press conference Friday.



The city was also planning to up capacity in indoor restaurants, movie theaters, places of worship and museums, but they're pausing that step as well. All those businesses will remain at 25% capacity indoors for the time being.

"We understand why we are doing this and we feel that this is the right move, from a conservative perspective," explains Laurie Thomas. She is the Executive Director of the Golden Gate Restaurant Association.

Thomas admits the new pause in opening is tough, but says she isn't surprised at the decision, given how quickly the situation can change due to COVID-19. She stresses that it is important play it safe and avoid a spike in cases.

"There is a hardship in dealing with that, but there will be more of a hardship if we have to shut everybody down who is open right now," says Thomas, who owns two restaurants in the city.

Chef and co-owner of Boulettes Larder, Amaryll Schwertner, is heading into the weekend with a sudden change of plans.

"It's petty brutal having this come up again, especially now," says Schwertner, referring to San Francisco's decision to pause the next phase of reopening.

Schwertner says they have been lucky during the pandemic. They have been able to increase online catering and having had outdoor dining.

Yet many businesses haven't been able to open due to financial or structural issues, such as not having space for outdoor dining. Those businesses, which were getting ready to open next week, will have to stay closed.

RELATED: San Francisco's outdoor dining program 'shared spaces' set to expire Dec. 31

"My heart goes out to everybody that needs to be open, paying rent, and all the employees that are counting on work," says Schwertner.

Businesses and restaurants that are currently open won't face any rollbacks. Most restaurants in San Francisco are allowed to operate at 25% indoor seating. However, they were getting ready to move to 50% next week.

Chef Schwertner says everyone will likely take a hit. But she adds that it's important for the city to work as a community.

"I think it's a smart thing for the city. Rough for our businesses. Smart for us as a community," says Schwertner.

The Golden Gate Restaurant Association wants to remind customers who made an upcoming reservation, to call to find out if there are any impacts.

The mayor warned we may see an uptick in cases after Halloween and the other upcoming holidays, as we have seen around the Bay Area when gatherings increase.

The overall infection rate is still very low in San Francisco. The testing positivity rate is 0.89%, Breed said.

Health Director Dr. Grant Colfax said the two numbers that triggered the decision were the city's case rate its hospitalization numbers. The case rate has gone from three people per 100,000 residents to four per 100,000.

"That may not sound like a lot, but when this virus takes off it takes off quickly," said Colfax.

Over the past two weeks, hospitals in San Francisco went from caring for 23 patients to 37 patients. Hospital capacity remains good, Colfax said.

INTERACTIVE: Here's the reopening status of every Bay Area county
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And while schools are allowed to reopen in the city, San Francisco Unified School District hasn't reached an agreement that allows it to move forward with reopening for in-person instruction.

Last week San Francisco allowed some non-essential office buildings to reopen and bring workers back in after seven months of working remotely.

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