SAN FRANCISCO (CBS SF) — Mayor London Breed implored San Francisco residents Tuesday to cancel any large gatherings planned for the upcoming Labor Day weekend as the city was still in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic and a post-holiday surge of new cases will derail plans to reopen key businesses and schools.
Over the last six months, Breed said, San Francisco has had a total of 9,544 confirmed COVID-19 cases with 83 deaths. The mayor noted that progress was being made, but said she fears a possible surge in new cases and hospitalizations coming out of Labor Day Weekend.
“Labor Day weekend is coming up. I know what everybody is thinking — ‘Well, this is a time I miss my family, it’s been six months, here’s an opportunity for us to get together.’ That is highly discouraged. Highly discouraged,” Breed said. “Especially if you want your kids to go back to school some time soon. Especially if you want to visit your elderly parents in the senior home that probably doesn’t allow visitors still. Especially if you need to reopen your shop and get back to work.”
Mayor Breed continued: “So as we approach Labor Day Weekend it is so important that we remember in those family and friendly gathering that occur, that’s where we are seeing through our contact tracing efforts where the spread happens. Where we run into problems. We saw it during the Fourth of July weekend. There was a spike. We’ve seen it during holiday weekends. We understand the natural desire of human nature to want to connect with other people. But we got to get through this.”
Breed said while the outdoor option may not be ideal for some businesses, it’s the safest option for now. But if the city continues to see cases declining, all personal services could be allowed to resume indoors by the end of the month.
“We are off the watchlist, so that is a good thing, but we are not out of the woods,” she said. “We know this is not what people wanted. I sure don’t want to get my hair done outside, I’m going to be honest, so I get it. But this is what we have to offer.”
Breed further announced that because the city is no longer on the state watch list, indoor malls can reopen with limited capacity starting Tuesday. She also confirmed that outdoor fitness facilities and classes were still scheduled to be permitted starting Sept. 9.
“One-on-one personal fitness will reopen to some capacity and that it appears that open gyms for just self-guided fitness will also open to some capacity. So that’s pretty good news for us,” said MX3 Fitness owner Dave Karraker.
He says landlords are starting to get antsy about rent and re-opening plans need to be firmed up.
“Having an actual date for the first time since early March as to when we’re going to reopen feels pretty good. The problem is we don’t have any guidelines associated with that. We don’t know what capacity we’ll be re-opening at, we don’t know what safety protocols we’ll be needing to follow. Until we hear more about that, we’re going to be optimistic.”
Breed also said that starting in mid-September San Francisco’s vital tourism industry will begin to awaken from its six-month COVID-19 imposed slumber. Hotels, outdoor tour buses and boats, indoor museums, zoos and aquariums with approved safety plans will all be allowed to resume operations.
The mayor also said churches, temples and synagogues will be able to hold individual and an outdoor services for up to 50 people at that time.
“This is something we all should be working toward,” Breed said. “What that means is a sacrifice of another month of masking and socially distancing and doing everything we can so we can get to a place where we can have indoor personal services…If we continue at the pace we are on now.”
When it comes to returning to in-class instructions in San Francisco schools, Breed said she feels it needs to happen “as soon as it is safely possible.”
The city will continue with its learning hubs program, she said, but by mid-September she will allow K-6th grade schools with a safety plan through the wavier process to reopen. But she added that the final decision to reopen those schools will rest with San Francisco Unified School District officials.
She added that it was uncertain if high schools will “reopen any time soon.”
“As mayor, of course, I’m very supportive of our schools, our kids, and wanting them to learn to grow and to thrive,” she said. “What we have seen this year with our students, especially those students who may not have parents or grandparents or family support to help them in their lessons. Even when we provided them with devices and internet service, they are still falling further behind.”
“It is why is was so important we opened these learning hubs and we are almost at capacity. We know how vital it is that kids have access to people who are able to help them. I’m extremely concerned the future of our children as we continue with COVID…We have to put reopening our schools at the forefront…To get kids back in schools as soon as it is safely possible.”
Breed said she understands the public’s frustrations. She hears the complaints all the time.
“There are a lot of questions that are asked of me and so many other leaders in the city,” she said. “The biggest question is when. ‘When can I open my store? When can my kid go back to school? When can I do this or when can I do that?’ I understand the desire. I have those same desires. And the only way we are going to get to that place is if we all do our part.”
Andria Borba contributed to this story.