SAN FRANCISCO (CBS SF) — The sunny and mild weather attracted a large crowd of people to Dolores Park in San Francisco’s Mission District Saturday, but not everyone was mindful of the COVID-19 risks.
From a view from the top park, it was hard to distinguish the chalk circles meant to encourage social distancing. While some people respected the rules, others spilled outside the circles, or overcrowded them.
Required mask-wearing was also spotty.
“It doesn’t matter if you’re inside or outside, if you have enough noses and mouths together, it doesn’t take very far for the virus to jump from somebody’s droplet to somebody elses nose or mouth,” said UCSF Infectious Disease Specialist Dr. Peter Chin-Hong.
Chin-Hong called the behavior in video shot by KPIX 5 disappointing. He said while the risk of getting COVID-19 goes down when you’re outdoors, the circles, which were first drawn in May, can still create a health hazard.
“I don’t have a problem with it personally, although it’s getting a little close, but we’re not as bad as some places if you look at beaches in the south and Florida,” said Nate Pagel of San Francisco. “It’s still not that bad, but we could do better.”
Mission resident Nate Pagel and his friend checked out Valencia Street Saturday evening, parts of which were closed to car traffic to allow for more outdoor dining space.
“Everything is a calculated risk, and so you just do the best that you can, but like he was saying outside – I have a lot less worries,” said Jason Garrison of Oakland.
Still Chin-Hong said the set up on Valencia is more challenging than the park, because the spaces are more constricted.
“Things are configured in a legal way from a public health perspective, but again when you pack a lot of people in, I think all bets are off,” said Chin-Hong. “Maybe outdoor dining is safe in a less sunny part of town or a more depressing area, depending on your perspective, but not in the way it’s practiced in these areas.”
With both locations, he said time is a factor. Most people spend a few hours at these sites, which can increase the risk.
“I’m just afraid that this will then lead to another mini-surge,” said Chin-Hong.
Certainly this fall when flu season arrives, and more students return in some cases to the classroom, he said another wave is inevitable, but it is up to us to keep our communities as safe as possible.