San Francisco is likely to implement additional restrictions in the coming days to curb a “dangerous” rise in new coronavirus cases and hospitalizations, Mayor London Breed said Tuesday.
Breed said the city’s rate of new infections has surpassed the peak it reached during the summer as the Bay Area and the state as a whole faces a new wave of cases.
While San Francisco County was moved over the weekend into the most-restrictive “purple” tier of the state’s pandemic reopening system, forcing indoor dining, gyms and places of worship to close, Breed said city officials are considering even more restrictions like a 14-day mandatory quarantine period for people entering San Francisco and reducing maximum capacities for some outdoor activities.
“We’ve been worried for months but now it’s real,” Breed said during a briefing on the pandemic. “Our dangerous winter has arrived.”
San Francisco is currently averaging 16 new cases per day per 100,000 residents, more than quadruple the city’s case rate for most of October, when it moved into the least-restrictive “yellow” tier.
“We were doing well, because almost everyone in this city was doing exactly what we asked you to do,” Breed said, regarding the move into the yellow tier. “But, as we said then, this virus is moving fast, things can change quickly.”
The city’s number of hospitalized coronavirus patients has also doubled over the last 10 days, from 40 on Nov. 18 to 87 this past Saturday.
Dr. Grant Colfax, the director of the city’s Department of Public Health, said San Francisco has “little time to spare” to avoid an overwhelming number of coronavirus hospitalizations.
Colfax suggested that, barring a swift reduction in the city’s case rate trend, hospitals could become so overcrowded that coronavirus patients will not be able to access treatment.
“If this trend continues, we will see a hospital bed shortage around Christmas,” he said. “That is a sobering thought: San Franciscans sick from COVID-19 during the December holidays with the real possibility of no available beds at our local hospitals.”
Colfax added that steps taken in recent weeks such as shuttering indoor dining, museums, non-essential offices and gyms and limiting indoor capacities for essential businesses have not slowed the city’s surge of new cases.
Breed suggested that the city’s surge in new cases could soon reach a point where San Francisco would follow in Los Angeles County’s footsteps by re-implementing a stay-at-home order, causing non-essential businesses to close like they did earlier in the year.
Breed said city officials have already discussed that concern with the Golden Gate Restaurant Association as restaurants face the possibility of pausing outdoor dining and subsisting only on takeout orders.
“Unfortunately we can’t rule it out,” Breed said. “As soon as we think it is absolutely necessary based on what we’re seeing with this spike, based on what we’re seeing with hospitalizations and the direction that our city is headed in, it could be a possibility.”
Colfax said new restrictions, like mandating a 14-day quarantine period for people traveling more than 150 miles into the city, could be announced as soon as Wednesday.