San Francisco Area Imposes Stay-at-Home Rules to Quell Virus

A wide swath of the San Francisco Bay area is imposing stay-at-home rules through Christmas and New Year’s Day, moving ahead of California’s threshold for lockdowns as the region seeks to prevent hospitals from becoming overrun by Covid-19 cases.

Five counties -- encompassing areas including San Francisco, Oakland and much of Silicon Valley -- along with the City of Berkeley plan to adopt measures including shutting down personal care services, outdoor restaurant operations and entertainment centers, county health officers said at a press briefing Friday. The rules will be effective Dec. 6 until Jan. 4.

The restrictions aim to closely mirror regional stay-at-home orders imposed by California Governor Gavin Newsom on Thursday, which take effect when availability of intensive-care beds falls below 15%. While much of the Bay Area hasn’t met that metric, the counties are moving quickly to prevent a deeper health crisis.

“We have little choice but to act and to act now,” said Sara Cody, health officer for Santa Clara County, home of many of Silicon Valley’s tech giants. “We hope that by acting early, and by acting as a region, we’ll have the best chance at bending the curve faster.”

California is struggling with its worst wave of coronavirus cases since the pandemic began, reporting a record 22,018 new infections on Friday. Los Angeles County, the epicenter of the state’s outbreak, adopted stay-at-home rules earlier this week as its hospitals fill. The Bay Area -- the first in the U.S. to impose lockdown measures in the spring -- has been credited for its relative success in fighting the virus, only to see its outbreak quickly intensify.

In San Francisco, cases now average 114 a day, compared with 34 in late October, Mayor London Breed said at a separate briefing Friday. Hospitalizations are up 35% in the past week.

Grant Colfax, San Francisco’s health director, said the city had perhaps one week to bend the curve enough that its hospital system won’t be overwhelmed. At current rates, the city may run out of intensive-care beds the day after Christmas, and by Jan. 4, an estimated 200 people in the city who need a hospital bed won’t be able to get one. By Feb. 4, that number could swell to 1,600, he said at a briefing Friday.

“We have to do everything we can to prevent this from being a holiday season that we look back on as one of sickness and death, especially now that we have vaccinations that are really in sight,” Breed said. “We know that if we wait, we are just delaying the inevitable.”

The rules allow for more movement than the deeper lockdowns earlier in the pandemic. Retail stores can be open at 20% capacity, while outdoor gyms and fitness classes can operate at a maximum of 12 people.

Still, the shutdowns are a fresh blow to businesses just as the holiday season gets under way.

“Today’s move to ‘jump’ the state is very difficult for our industry,” Laurie Thomas, executive director of the Golden Gate Restaurant Association, said in a statement. “The majority of restaurants simply cannot make it financially on takeout alone.”

©2020 Bloomberg L.P.

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