San Francisco Mayor Announces Reopening Timeline

San Francisco Mayor London Breed talks to reporters inside the community room of the city’s newest Navigation Center on Dec. 17, 2019. (Courthouse News photo/ Maria Dinzeo)

(CN) — San Francisco Mayor London Breed announced Thursday a time frame for a staggered reopening of the city, but the proposal requires approval from state officials and hinges on the city’s ability to meet certain health criteria in coming weeks.

Under the proposal, businesses that have been shut down since stay-at-home orders were issued in March will resume in a modified form beginning on June 15.

Businesses and activities in the next reopening phase include outdoor fitness classes, religious services and ceremonies, professional sporting events without spectators, non-emergency medical appointments and all manufacturing operations.

City health workers and residents’ sacrifices during the fight against the deadly virus have led to conditions where safe reopening is possible, Breed said in a statement, adding that Covid-19 remains a dangerous threat.

“We’re entering a new phase of this crisis and we feel comfortable that we’re at a place that we can begin reopening parts of our economy, but that is not to say that this virus doesn’t continue to threaten our city,” Breed said.

“As we begin recovering and reopening, all of us are going to have to play our part to adjust to the new normal until we have a vaccine, and we’ll continue to do everything we can to offer clear guidelines and precautions to support residents and businesses with the new adjustments that will be needed moving forward.”

She said the reopening plan falls in line with California health guidelines, adding that it can also be adjusted for businesses to reopen sooner if public health conditions allow.

The Bay Area counties, which became the first major jurisdictions in the United States to issue stay-at-home orders in response to the pandemic, have cautiously approached the easing of restrictions.

Breed released guidelines on May 14 requiring social distancing, allowing businesses to offer curbside pick-up only and requiring they have written health and safety plans.

The guidelines moved San Francisco into its first stage of a three-part reopening phase which allowed for construction, elective surgeries and outdoor businesses like flea markets and garden stores to resume.

Under the plan, outdoor museums, child care businesses, botanical gardens and dog grooming services may resume as early as June 1.

The final phase of reopening includes concert venues, nightclubs and live sporting events with spectators, but officials have yet to determine a date for that stage.

Residents must continue to comply with other public health and safety guidelines such as handwashing and cleaning frequently touched surfaces, said San Francisco Director of Health Grant Colfax.

“Every San Franciscan can and must help if we are going to reach better times ahead,” Colfax said in a statement. “That means, covering your face, keeping social distance and getting tested if you have any symptoms. These actions have saved lives and are going to be more important than ever as we start to move around the city again.”

City health officials will continue to evaluate the stay at home order and Covid-19 infection data to determine whether to announce additional businesses reopening in July and August.

San Francisco Assessor Carmen Chu, co-chair of the city’s Economic Recovery Task Force, which developed the safe reopening plan, said in a statement the city will continue setting an example of recovery guided by public health standards.

“Through the task force, we heard from hundreds of San Franciscans on the need to balance our public health needs with our ability to make ends meet and today’s announcement provides a roadmap for all of us to plan and prepare for the future,” Chu said.

Joaquín Torres, director of the Office of Economic and Workforce Development, said in the statement any reopening guidance will be issued with enough time for business owners to make needed adjustments for rebooting their establishments.

“As we move to reopen, this framework provides business with the information they need to plan their next steps towards recovery,” Torres said. “And as our communities follow good public health practices, we will see an increase in the activities necessary to move San Francisco towards full economic vibrancy.”

Also on Thursday, San Francisco issued a new public health order requiring people to wear masks that cover the nose and mouth whenever they are outside their home and within 30 feet of someone with whom they do not live.

Explaining the rationale behind the new requirement in a question-and-answer session with San Francisco Mayor London Breed Friday, the city’s health officer Tomás Aragón said it aims to ensure people have enough time to cover their nose and mouth before coming into close contact with others.

“The 30 feet is really about being mindful as you approach people,” Aragón said.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends people were face coverings in public, along with frequent hand washing and avoiding close contact with others, to help prevent the spread of the novel coronavirus, Covid-19.

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