San Francisco Added to State's COVID-19 Watch List, Reopening Plans Paused Indefinitely

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Pedestrians walk by graffiti encouraging the wearing of masks on April 20, 2020 in San Francisco. (Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

Spikes in COVID-19 cases — and a rise in hospitalizations in particular — have landed San Francisco on the state’s seemingly ever-growing COVID-19 watch list.

The city will comply with additional watch list-related restrictions, Mayor London Breed announced in a press conference Friday. Indoor malls and non-essential offices in San Francisco must close beginning Monday, Breed's office said.

Thirty-three of California's 58 counties have have now been added to the watch list by Gov. Gavin Newsom's administration due to surging cases and other data points trending in the wrong direction. Before Friday, San Francisco and San Mateo counties were the only Bay Area counties not on the list.

“We have a small window of time right now to get our cases under control, before we could see the large outbreak that we’re seeing around this country,” Breed said.

Breed attributed the bulk of San Francisco’s COVID-19 surge to non-household gatherings, and people going back to work.


In just 13 days, San Francisco's total number of COVID-19 cases since the pandemic began spiked from about 4,000 to almost 5,000, according to Grant Colfax, the city's health director. Fifty-two people have now died as a result of the virus.

“We will abide by restrictions as a watch list county, and we reserve the option to go further than the state,” Colfax said, “in closing additional businesses and activities or continuing to pause reopening, if our local and regional conditions call for it."

He implored San Franciscans to wear face masks, socially distance and stop gathering with non-household members.

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Over half of those that have been sickened by COVID-19 are Latino, Colfax said, even though that population only comprises 15% of the city’s population.

The city pledged to expand access to COVID-19 testing in communities disproportionately impacted by the virus, "especially members of the Latino community, people who must leave home to work, Black and African American residents, and the eastern and southeastern neighborhoods," according to a press release from Breed's office.

Under a new health order the city also announced it will issue on Monday, private health care providers will be required to provide same-day testing for patients with symptoms and close contacts of confirmed COVID-19 cases.

Private hospitals and clinics will also be required to provide testing to asymptomatic essential workers.

Under strict new reopening guidelines for California's schools announced by Gov. Newsom on Friday, schools in counties on the state's COVID-19 watch list cannot hold in-person classes.

San Francisco Unified School District had already announced a plan to begin the school year on Aug. 17 with remote learning only.

KQED's David Marks contributed to this report.