By Betty Yu

SAN FRANCISCO (CBS SF) — Officials at the Hilton San Francisco Union Square, the largest hotel in the city, say they’ve been preparing for Monday’s grand reopening the entire time operations were shut down because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

After displaying a lit-up heart and “SF” to honor the city during the pandemic, hotel officials kicked off a 5-day countdown which ended Sunday night.

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The hotel employed more than a thousand workers before the pandemic. Now, officials said, they’re starting off with a small group of employees.

“When they (the employees) came through those doors, in my 35 years I think it was the happiest – it’s like the happiest I’ve been – they’re so excited to return to what they do so well,” said Terry Lewis, General Manager. “We have a wonderful team here – this hotel has been part of San Francisco since 1964.”

Guests can expect enhanced, strict cleaning and disinfecting measures and protocols and contactless arrival options.

“I have no fear that tourism will increase our case rates and in fact, I think it’s time, and I hope this will happen – that we’ll get more tourism,” said Dr. Monica Gandhi, UCSF infectious disease expert.

She said currently there are only 13 COVID-19 patients in hospitals across the city, and COVID cases across the Bay Area are extremely low.

77% of San Franciscans have received at least one dose of the vaccine.

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“I’m just personally very, very excited about having our city return and having people visit our restaurants and our museums and our hotels,” added Lewis.

The Koch family is visiting San Francisco from Cleveland.

“We’ve had a number of beautiful dinners and just walking around from the hotel and Chinatown. We’ve had a great time,” said Dean Koch.

He and his wife and son are staying at a Union Square hotel.

“I like it’s a nice mellow pace, the roads are still really quite crowded compared to where we come from, but the city is so beautiful,” added Donna Koch.

Tourist spots like Fisherman’s Wharf are also seeing a slow and steady return of tourists

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“We’ve been out and about quite a bit and Arizona’s open to a certain extent, Las Vegas has been open, so we’re kind of used to it,” said Che Jones of Arizona.