San Francisco restaurants are allowed to have indoor dining starting today, Sept. 30. The San Francisco Department of Public Health (SFDPH) released interim guidance for both indoor and outdoor dining today, which stipulates reopening based on a tier system linked to COVID-19 case numbers.
Both indoor and outdoor dining rules could change depending on spikes or dips of COVID cases. If cases increase to red or purple, the department can and will pause or reverse these re-opening measures. For now, at the orange tier, the measures allow for indoor dining at 25% capacity for up to 100 diners.
Simultaneously, the SFDPH also sent out guidelines and recommendations for HVAC systems and indoor ventilation, which has been a major concern for offering indoor dining in the first place. A recent CDC report cites dining out as a significant COVID-19 risk that applies to both indoor and outdoor dining, due to the inability to wear masks while eating. The necessary improvements for ventilation include having HVAC systems serviced and functioning properly, increasing the flow of outdoor air and natural ventilation by opening windows and considering HEPA filters and fans.
Current CDC guidelines still recommend drive-through, delivery, takeout or curbside pickup as the safest and lowest risk methods for restaurant food. With a predicted spike of cases in conjunction with flu season, guidelines also strongly recommend getting flu vaccines for workers.
The Golden Gate Restaurant Association worked closely with SFDPH on these guidelines. Laurie Thomas, the association's executive director, said that everyone will need to make their own decisions based on their comfort level. "But this is an important step forward in the reopening process," she said in a statement.