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Offices Can Reopen Next Week

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When it comes to the coronavirus pandemic, San Francisco is like an island of calm in a turbulent ocean. On Tuesday, thanks to its low transmission and hospitalization rates, San Francisco became the first county in the Bay Area, and the first urban county in the state, to achieve “yellow” status in California’s tiered reopening plan.

And reopen city leaders will. But with the pandemic’s “third wave” well underway across the U.S., and still basically no response plan from the federal government, they might want to pull in the drawbridge behind them.

On Tuesday, Mayor London Breed announced that the city is moving forward with reopening offices next week, along with a slate of other activities.

Starting on November 27, non-essential offices will be able to reopen at 25 percent capacity, and offices with fewer than 25 employees will be able to bring in an even greater proportion of their workers, as long as they can adhere to social distancing. Climbing gyms will be allowed to reopen, and traditional gyms, whose capacity is currently limited to 10 percent, will be allowed open up at 25 percent capacity.

Then on Nov. 3 — yes, that Nov. 3 — indoor restaurants and food courts, indoor houses of worship, indoor museums and movie theaters will be allowed to open at 50 percent capacity, up from 25 percent currently. (We’ll see if anybody has an appetite.)

The announcement also sets a target for reopening bars, without food, outdoors, by mid-November.

The timing of the latest reopening guidelines comes with a somewhat ironic twist. The city has recently become embroiled in a lawsuit levied by the San Francisco International Arts Festival, after the city refused to issue permits for its 49-spectator outdoor performances at Fort Mason this weekend. Outdoor protests and worship are currently allowed with up to 200 people, and will be increased to 300 starting next month.

As usual, these new regulations come with exhortations to “remain vigilant” and continue following mask and social distancing protocols.

The city by the bay is about to find out just how well vigilance and masks can stand up to the pandemic raging beyond its borders.

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Benjamin Schneider

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