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‘There Will Be Rollbacks’: More San Francisco COVID-19 Restrictions Coming This Week, Breed Says

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A masked passenger waits for a San Francisco Muni bus on April 6, 2020 in the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic. (Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

"Let me be clear, as clear as I can be: It’s not good."

And with that, San Francisco Mayor London Breed on Tuesday offered a grim assessment of coronavirus cases and hospitalizations in the city, amid a surge that she warned could soon overwhelm the health care system unless new restrictive actions are taken.

"Our dangerous winter has arrived. The truth is we are going to have to take more restrictive action. And it pains me to say that," Breed said at a press briefing. "There will be rollbacks."

Although she stopped short of detailing any specific actions, Breed said the city is considering new measures like those ordered in Santa Clara County, which recently added mandatory 14-day travel quarantines, reduced capacity for many businesses and further limited indoor and outdoor gatherings.

The city will issue new guidance as soon as Wednesday, she said.

“What we’re seeing now is a spike unlike anything we’ve seen since the beginning of this pandemic," she said. "We are in trouble. And we are sounding the alarm. That’s going to mean real challenging months ahead."


San Francisco, like much of the rest of California and the nation, is currently experiencing its highest COVID-19 rates since the pandemic began in March. With an average of 140 new cases per day, the rate of infection in the city is four times higher than it was a month ago, said Dr. Grant Colfax, director of the San Francisco Department of Public Health.

"That is how fast the virus is multiplying throughout our community. And it shows no signs of slowing down," he said, noting that the impact of recent Thanksgiving travel is still unaccounted for.

COVID-19 hospitalizations in the city, although still fewer than 100, have doubled in just the last 10 days, Colfax said.

"If this trend continues, we will see a hospital bed shortage around Christmas," he said. "We must slow the spread of this virus or we will continue to see hospitalizations and, unfortunately, death rates climb possibly to numbers that we have never seen before."

Speaking on World AIDS Day, Colfax compared the current pandemic with the health crisis that ravaged the city in the 1980s and '90s.

"We could not save lives because we did not yet have the tools to treat AIDS. But we came together as a city and worked together to find solutions," he said. "With this pandemic, we already have the knowledge. We know what it takes to fight the virus. This current surge should not cost us family, friends, neighbors and colleagues because we know what we need to do to protect lives."

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The city's bleak outlook comes just days after San Francisco was moved into California's most restrictive reopening tier, joining the vast majority of the state in having to tighten restrictions on many businesses and activities and comply with a limited stay-at-home order. On Monday, Gov. Gavin Newsom announced the possibility of new statewide restrictions if cases continue to increase.

Breed said San Francisco could impose rollbacks that go even further than those ordered by the state, and did not rule out the possibility of shutting down outdoor dining options.

She also commented on Monday's announcement that more than 1,200 employees of the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency could face layoffs amid catastrophic revenue losses resulting from the pandemic.

"The possibility of losing nearly a quarter of our workforce at MTA is hard to imagine. But this is the reality we have to confront," she said, echoing the plea Newsom made on Monday for federal emergency support. "We are facing the gutting of a basic city service that our residents rely on."

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