San Francisco to reopen indoor dining, gyms and museums as Covid cases fall
California city, which was among the first to impose a lockdown, has seen some of the lowest case and death rates in the US Customers interact with servers at Mission Rock Resort restaurant in San Francisco in June 2020. Photograph: Ben Margot/AP San Francisco will begin reopening more of its economy amid declining Covid-19 case rates, hospitalizations and deaths. Starting on Wednesday, restaurants can start serving limited indoor dining and movie theaters, gyms and museums can reopen at restricted capacity. “This is the beginning of a great time in San Francisco, you save money not buying those plane tickets to go other places. You can enjoy your city, right here right now,” an upbeat Mayor London Breed said on Tuesday under blue skies from Pier 39, an area popular with tourists in picturesque Fisherman’s Wharf. “I am so proud of San Francisco. 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,” Dr Grant Colfax, the director of the San Francisco department of public health, said in a statement. San Francisco, with a population of 900,000 before the pandemic, has seen among the lowest number of coronavirus cases and death rates in the country, reporting more than 34,000 cases since the start of the pandemic and 422 deaths. The city and its surrounding area were the first to impose a lockdown when the coronavirus struck the US in the spring of last year. Some sectors were allowed to reopen after case rates dropped in the summer, but the city shut down business activity again in early December as the positivity rate surged statewide. City fiscal analysts say San Franciscans have stayed at home more than people in other California cities and even other equally strict Bay Area counties, with many of the region’s workers, including those in the tech industry, able to shift their work from offices to their homes. The policies contributed to good public health, but stressed the local economy. With the reopening policies, San Francisco is joining Santa Clara and Napa counties in the Bay Area to allow indoor dining rooms and movie theaters to reopen at 25% capacity or up to 100 people and gyms and yoga studios to open at 10% capacity. Museums, zoos and aquariums can open indoors at 25% capacity. San Luis Obispo county on the coast, along with Lassen, Modoc and El Dorado counties are also easing restrictions. Outdoor dining, outdoor museums and some indoor and outdoor personal services reopened in late January after the state called off its regional stay-home order, but the economic toll has been grim. The coronavirus restrictions have had a significant impact on San Francisco’s economy. The city’s once sky-high rents have decreased by 30%, according to officials, and new office-leasing activity in 2020 dropped 71% as tech workers who could work from anywhere fled for other parts of the state and country that were more affordable and had more space. Downtown eateries that once fed throngs of hungry office workers and tourists at lunch struggled. Tourism is also struggling, with airline ticket purchases to San Francisco in the late October and November period down 80% from the previous year, much worse than the average US city, fiscal analysts said in a January report. Breed, the mayor, on Tuesday urged residents to continue wearing masks and maintaining proper social distance even as she encouraged them to explore the city and pump money into the local economy. “When your waiter walks up to your table, put your mask on. When you go to the restroom, put your mask on,” she said. Alcatraz Island, another top tourist draw for the city, expects to reopen in mid-March, said Julian Espinoza, a spokesperson for the Golden Gate national recreation area, which includes Alcatraz. Breed also announced on social media that another iconic San Francisco landmark will return sometime this year: the clanging of cable cars. “Cable cars are a part of the fabric of San Francisco. They draw tourists, they help our economy, and I’m not going to let them just disappear,” she said.