Mayor London Breed.

COVID-19 Is Priority for S.F. Budget, Breed Says

Hundreds of millions of dollars have been set aside in San Francisco’s budget for COVID-19 prevention, testing and treatment, Mayor London Breed announced this morning at a press conference in San Francisco. Over the next year, the Mayor’s Office has allocated $185 million for health care operations, $183 million for housing and shelter, $62 million for food distribution and $16 million for communications.

SF City Hall

With Budget Cuts, Can the Ethics Commission Still Counter S.F. Corruption?

Members of the San Francisco Ethics Commission let out a sigh of relief last week when they learned from Mayor London Breed’s budget proposal that their funding would be sliced by 3.3%, far less than the 10% they had been expecting. But they warned that even the smaller-than-expected cuts would still have an impact on the political watchdog group’s effectiveness.

Shireen McSpadden

New Coronavirus Infections Fall Slightly, Food Assistance Extended

San Francisco’s COVID-19 infection rate is leveling off, but  Public Health Director Dr. Grant Colfax said the growth rate is still much higher than he would like to see. “We are finding about 90 new cases of COVID-19 every day. That number has started to drop a bit from its high point two weeks ago, but it is still very concerning. Anything above 50 cases a day continues to put us in the red zone on high alert. And we have been there for about the last six weeks.”

The Great Plates meal delivery program for seniors sheltering in place has been extended through Sept.

Compass unhoused families

Service Providers Warn Budget Cuts Could Amplify Displacement Wave

San Francisco’s housing and homelessness service providers worry that City Hall’s budget decisions will leave them unprepared to face an expected wave of housing displacement. Interviews with staffers at a dozen nonprofits found that calls for assistance have increased by at least 30% and at some organizations by as much as 200% since March when the pandemic forced San Francisco residents to shelter in place amid a recession characterized by widespread income loss. Many providers are concerned expected city budget cuts will hobble their ability to provide vital aid like rental assistance, legal representation in eviction cases, food and emergency shelter, just when clients need help the most. One likely outcome of expected cutbacks they predicted: a worsening of the city’s already daunting homelessness crisis. “We’re all bracing ourselves for a huge growth in the numbers of those who are living on the streets, no question,” said Sara Shortt, director of public policy and community outreach at the Community Housing Partnership, a supportive housing nonprofit.

Major COVID-19 Surge in S.F.

The number of people hospitalized with COVID-19 in San Francisco is rising rapidly and the city is facing “a major surge.” Department of Public Health Director Dr. Grant Colfax said. “In April, we experienced a surge of COVID-19 cases, which at its peak, saw 94 San Franciscans in the hospital. That number dropped to just 26 patients six weeks ago. Today, it’s 107.” 

Dr. Colfax said the growth rate of new infections is alarming. “It took us 38 days to go from 2000 to 3000 cases, it took us half as long to go from 3000 to 4000.

Mayor London Breed and a sign language interpreter at a July 22 press conference. Screen capture from SFGovTV via Zoom.

S.F. to Expand Coronavirus Testing as Cases Surge

San Francisco is conducting more than 3,000 coronavirus tests per day on average, but backlogs are developing at labs and a rising demand is making it more difficult to schedule a test. Mayor London Breed announced Wednesday that testing capacity will be expanded by about 1,400 tests per day in the coming weeks through the addition of appointment times and testing facilities. 

The CityTest facility on the Embarcadero will be adding 400 slots per day for essential workers. The city will launch two mobile pop-up testing sites with capacity of up to 250 tests per day, one of which will open this week and the other next week. Both pop-up facilities will rotate to neighborhoods where high rates of COVID-19 are detected. The city will also create a third CityTest site in a southeastern neighborhood in August, with a capacity of 500 tests per day at a yet undetermined location.

Supervisor Aaron Peskin at a press conference in Nob Hill. Laura Wenus / Public Press

Supervisor Proposes Limit on Disruptive Construction

Supervisor Aaron Peskin has introduced legislation that aims to keep landlords from engaging in construction work in ways that disrupt the lives of their tenants who are sheltering in place. For example, it would require that landlords provide alternative electrical and water supplies if the construction they’re doing results in either being shut off. 

“While we are sheltering in place, it is profoundly important that the residents of these buildings can shelter in peace,” he said. Peskin announced the proposal in front of a Nob Hill apartment building, where one tenant says construction is constant and most residents have left. Andrea Carla Michaels, a professional namer and crossword puzzle creator, is best known in San Francisco as “the Pizza Lady” for her practice of distributing pizza to homeless people. Michaels says construction in the building has been significantly disruptive to her life. 

“From literally the day, every time he moves someone out, he begins floor-to-ceiling renovations without permits.

Mayor London Breed

S.F. Mayor Says Indoor Malls, Non-Essential Offices to Close

UPDATE: July 17, 2020. Adds embedded audio and timestamps to summary of key points from press conference. Mayor London Breed announced this morning at a press conference that San Francisco would roll back some of its reopenings, closing indoor malls and non-essential offices on Monday. S.F. has joined a list of  30 counties on the state watch list, due to the rapidly rising number of Covid cases. San Francisco has 4,795 confirmed cases of coronavirus and 52 deaths.

Dr. Grant Colfax, Director of the San Francisco Department of Public Health

COVID-19 Hospitalizations in S.F. Could Be Ten Times Higher by October

San Francisco’s Department of Public Health says further reopening plans remain on hold as the city sees a surge in new coronavirus infections that could lead to dire consequences in coming weeks. 

“The virus is not only still out there, it is out there more than ever before,” said Dr. Grant Colfax, director of the department, in a press conference Wednesday. “We are working with researchers who are seeing the reproductive rate of the virus continue to climb above one. Right now we estimate that that number is approximately 1.3,” he said, referring to the R0 or “r naught,” a term used to describe the infection rate of a disease.  In this case, that would essentially mean that for every three people with the virus, four new people are becoming infected. 

Dr. Colfax said at the current rate the number of infected people needing hospital beds in San Francisco could rise tenfold by fall. “If we do not do better, we are looking at major problems by late August and September, with an average peak of 900 hospitalized patients by early October,” he said. “And just to put this in some frame of reference, on our last surge, in April, we peaked at 94 cases.”

Colfax said contact tracing is showing that the spread in San Francisco is mostly among small groups of people who know each other. 

“There’s increased activity in terms of the social gatherings that people are having,” he said.

The Department of Public Health has identified the Palace of Fine Arts as a possible location for a pop-up ward wards to be used in the event of a coronavirus surge.

S.F. Identifies Sites for Pop-Up COVID-19 Wards in Case of Surge

San Francisco has identified a handful of potential pop-up wards to be used in the event of a coronavirus surge to house nearly 500 COVID-positive patients who do not require hospitalization but who cannot recuperate on their own because of their housing status or medical conditions, the Department of Emergency Management confirmed in a series of emails last week.