After a Spike in COVID-19 Cases, SF Delays Reopening

It’s unclear when barbershops and outdoors bars will open their doors again.

When Mayor London Breed announced an accelerated reopening of the city’s hair and nail salons, barbershops, and outdoor bars, it seemed like San Francisco was returning to normalcy — perhaps too quickly.

Yesterday, a rise in COVID-19 cases confirmed that the city was not ready to open the doors of its higher-risk businesses on June 29.

“Yesterday we saw 103 cases,” Breed tweeted about San Francisco’s COVID-19 case count. “On June 15, when we first reopened outdoor dining and in-store retail, we had 20.”

Now, businesses like tattoo parlors, museums, zoos and massage establishments will have to wait for a new reopening date. It’s unclear if San Francisco will revert back to its original timeline, which initially had higher-risk businesses scheduled for reopening in mid-July.

However, Breed warns that without early intervention the number of COVID-19 cases could multiply quickly, leaving the city with only one choice: to “shut down.” Public health experts will continue to monitor the situation before deciding if it’s safe to reopen certain businesses.

“I know people are anxious to reopen — I am too,” Breed tweeted. “But we can’t jeopardize the progress we’ve made.”

It’s unclear what might have caused the sudden increase in COVID-19 cases around the country. Some were quick to blame the ongoing Black Lives Matter protests in Breed’s Twitter replies, but experts say otherwise. 

“We find no evidence that urban protests reignited COVID-19 case growth during the more than three weeks following protest onset,” read a report by the National Bureau of Economic Research. “We conclude that predictions of broad negative public health consequences of Black Lives Matter protests were far too narrowly conceived.”

Local experts also told KQED that the Bay Area protests were not “emerging as a risk” for recent cases. If anything, the rise “has as much to do with just reopening the economy as it does with any discrete events like the protests,” according to Kirsten Bibbons-Domingo, the chair of the Epidemiology and Biostatistics Department at UCSF.

Grace Z. Li covers arts, culture and food for SF Weekly. You can reach her at gli@sfweekly.com or follow her on Twitter @gracezhali.

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