Indoor Dining And Museums Are Back But Is It Too Soon?

San Francisco has been the safest city to be in during the highs and lows of the COVID-19 pandemic. Everything from being the first to shelter-in-place to eviction moratoriums, the city and its leaders have been using their heads.

But now, we’re a fatal limbo state that could put us behind again, you see, San Francisco never had an awful outbreak. In stark contrast to New York in the very beginning or in LA now where one person is getting COVID-19 every 6 seconds. San Francisco is the prized jewel of incredible safety measures and the locals who make sure safety is of the upmost importance. For the first time since a late fall spike of COVID-19 infections, San Francisco will allow indoor dining and, gyms, movie theaters and museums to open to the public Wednesday morning.

Mayor London Breed and Grant Colfax, San Francisco Director of Health, announced the easing of coronavirus restrictions Tuesday. The changes will allow many businesses that were forced to shut last fall to reopen at some capacity, a news release said. Indoor dining can resume at a limit to groups from the same household with a cap of four people. Indoor services must end by 10 p.m. Fitness centers and climbing walls will reopen at 10% capacity and museums can resume at 25%. As it stands today, San Francisco has vaccinated 32% of residents, 22% being the first dose and 10% the second dose.

Though it makes us weary of preemptively opening, throwing us back into another lockdown, and closing more businesses in its wake. “Nearly a year after our shelter in place order, thanks to our collective actions and commitment to following the health guidelines, we have come through our worst surge since the beginning of the pandemic,” Colfax said. “We know how to slow the spread and save lives. As we continue to gradually reopen we need to be aware of the risks and to stay vigilant, especially while vaccines remain limited and the growing presence of more contagious variants pose an increased risk of greater community spread.” It’s the last bit that worries us overall as we enter an indoor society again—indoor services, if not ventilated correctly, could pose a significant risk to the health of elder San Franciscans. We’re concerned that messages like this will become the norm and that safety comes second to everything else.


San Francisco Mayor London Breed (C) speaks during a press conference as San Francisco police chief William Scott (L) and San Francisco Department of Public Health director Dr. Grant Colfax (R) look on at San Francisco City Hall on March 16, 2020 in San Francisco, California. JUSTIN SULLIVAN/GETTY IMAGESSan Francisco Mayor London Breed (C) speaks during a press conference as San Francisco police chief William Scott (L) and San Francisco Department of Public Health director Dr. Grant Colfax (R) look on at San Francisco City Hall on March 16, 2020 in San Francisco, California. JUSTIN SULLIVAN/GETTY IMAGES

San Francisco Mayor London Breed (C) speaks during a press conference as San Francisco police chief William Scott (L) and San Francisco Department of Public Health director Dr. Grant Colfax (R) look on at San Francisco City Hall on March 16, 2020 in San Francisco, California. JUSTIN SULLIVAN/GETTY IMAGES

But we’re tired right? San Francisco has been in the longest shelter-in-place than any other city in the country and has been the strictest when it came to enforcing those. We often think about what San Francisco use to be like, how going indoors into establishments was never an issue, but as we move into limited indoor activities—we don’t want people to risk their health or safety to go back to a perceived “normal.” A perceived normal where it’s fine to work minimum wage and get sick, it’s fine to have the sniffles and still go to the museum (yes, people are doing this. We’ve watched people remove the mask to sneeze.) COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations in San Francisco peaked in early-January, with new cases reaching a seven-day average of 375, the state reported. Cases have since continued on a downward trend, and the city has slowly begun to reopen in recent weeks.

As we get back into the holidays that make us gather, will we see more peaks to the data? That is prompting the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to issue a warning not to loosen restrictions yet. The concern is another surge. Health experts are warning states not to ease restrictions too much over the possibility cases could rise again due to variants, wiping out the gains the gains that have been made. “San Francisco was the first major city to shut down, and we’ve been extremely conservative about every decision we make,” said Breed.

Scientists say one of the COVID-19 variants, B.1.1.7. is about 50% more transmissible. “Be aware there are going to be different restrictions for indoor and outdoors,” said Laurie Thomas of the Golden Gate Restaurant Association. Public health officials for the most part have been more cautious than peers in southern California and in other states about reopening the economy.

Anyhow, we’re worried, apprehensive, excited for our favorite spaces to get back on their feet—we just don’t trust the patrons who will potentially ruin this moment again.

The following activities may be reopened:

Indoor dining and food courts:
Indoor dining at restaurants, bars serving meals, cafes and coffee shops, hotels, museums, and food courts in shopping malls may open at up to the lesser of 25% maximum occupancy or 100 people. San Francisco will limit indoor dining tables to members of one household up to a maximum of four people and require indoor service to end by 10:00pm.

Indoor and outdoor personal services:
Personal services that require mask removal can take place outdoors and the service provider wears an N95 or other well-fitted mask. Personal services that require mask removal can occur indoors if the service is provided at least 6 feet away from others and preferably in a separate room and the service provider wears an N95 or other well-fitted mask.

Indoor fitness:
Gyms and climbing walls may reopen indoors at up to 10% capacity.
Gentle indoor fitness classes such as stretching, yoga and meditation may operate within indoor fitness guidelines. Indoor locker rooms and showers remain closed at this time. Indoor saunas, steam rooms and hot tubs remain closed per State rules.

Indoor museums, zoos, and aquariums:
Indoor museums, zoos and aquariums can open at up to 25% capacity with an approved safety plan.

Indoor funerals:
Funerals may take place indoors up to up to 25% capacity. Simultaneous indoor and outdoor services may not take place.

Indoor political demonstrations:
Political demonstrations may take place indoors up to 25% of maximum capacity.

Schools:
Middle schools and high schools that had not yet reopened may resume reopening for in-person instruction with a COVID-19 Safety Plan approved by the Health Officer. Elementary schools may continue to reopen, as has been the case.

Outdoor stand-alone amusement rides:
Outdoor stand-alone amusement rides like Ferris wheels, carousels, and train rides will open. Only one household can inhabit each separate space, such as a Ferris wheel cabin or train car.

Indoor movie theaters:
Indoor movie theaters may open at up to the lesser of 25% or 100 people capacity, but without food or beverage concessions. If there are multiple auditoriums, each auditorium is limited to the lesser of 25% or 100 people provided the complex as a whole does not exceed 25% capacity.

Indoor pools:
Indoor swimming pools may open up to 25% capacity but only for basic swimming and drowning-prevention classes for children. Outdoor pools remain open for broader uses.

The following activities may expand their operating capacity:

Outdoor gatherings:
Small outdoor gatherings of up to 12 people from three households can continue. Outdoor gatherings that involve food and drink may expand to up to six people from three households.

Outdoor dining:
Outdoor dining will expand from members of two households up to six people, to members of three households up to six people per table, and will remove the requirement that service end by10:00 pm.

Additionally, for those businesses that had constructed barriers between tables in lieu of distancing before December 6, those barriers can remain. New barriers intended to replace the required 6 feet of distancing may not be constructed.

Hotels and other lodging facilities:
Hotels and lodging facilities can open dining and fitness facilities in accordance with guidelines. Though San Francisco’s travel quarantine for travelers from outside the Bay Area has lifted, the State’s travel advisory requiring that non-essential travelers from out of state or beyond 120 miles quarantine for 10 days remains.

Drive-in venues:
Live entertainment with up to six performers can open in a drive in context of up to 100 cars, with one household per car. In-person ordering or pick up of concessions may open if in a designated area with customer metering and eating or drinking in vehicles only.

Real estate:
Real estate showings must occur virtually or, if a virtual viewing is not feasible, by appointment without limits to the number of people viewing or showing the property. Open houses are not permitted at this time.

Outdoor youth programs and out of school time programs:
Out of school time programs for school-aged children and youth such as Community Hubs, youth sports, and afterschool programs, may increase outdoor cohorts to 25 children or youth. Youth may only participate in one program at a time.

Higher education and adult education:
In-person classes at institutes of higher education, vocational education and adult education can take place outdoors up to 25 students. If specialized equipment is required, classes can take place indoors at 25% capacity or if for a core essential service, without a capacity limit as long as 6-foot physical distancing can be maintained. No indoor lecture classes may take place.

Outdoor recreation:
Doubles tennis and doubles pickleball can resume with members of up to four households. Up to 12 people from three households may pursue outdoor low, moderate, or high contact sports. If part of a supervised youth or adult league or club, outdoor moderate and high contact sports such as softball, field hockey, and gymnastics, as well as football, basketball, and soccer may resume for stable groups of up to 25 per team, following DPH safety precautions.

// Photography courtesy of Jay Wennington.


Indoor Dining And Museums Are Back But Is It Too Soon?
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