Alfredo Banuelos. Courtesy photo.

Frontline Dispatch: SF Paramedic Reflects on Pandemic

Before coronavirus cases were confirmed in San Francisco, paramedic Alfredo Banuelos and his colleagues were watching case numbers in other cities, still at a distance. Then he got his first patient. When the virus arrived in San Francisco and the city locked down and everything changed, procedures on the ambulance changed too. He reflects on how the pandemic unfolded for emergency medical responders. “I remember having our morning roundups, and having our supervisors say, ‘OK, we’re still fine you guys.’ But then you get closer: OK, now it’s in the state of Washington.

Susan Philip at the city's COVID Command Center at Moscone Center in April 2021.

SF Relaxes Outdoor Mask Rules

Under a new health order, San Franciscans no longer need to wear a mask while doing outdoor activities like walking or biking alone or with members of their households. Unvaccinated people should wear a mask if social distancing can’t be maintained. Fully vaccinated people can almost entirely forgo masks outdoors, with certain exceptions. Dr. Susan Philip, San Francisco’s health officer, explained the details of the new order and how these decisions are made on “Civic.” 

“When people are choosing to appropriately follow the guidance, and not necessarily wear their masks all the time outdoors, I’ve heard stories about being yelled at for not wearing their mask — just in the last day or so since the order has come out — being told that they’re being inconsiderate, and people getting very upset with them. They are not doing anything that is against our guidance.

Sara Eisenberg deputy city attorney

City Attorney to SF School District: Show Us Reopening Plan Details

After more than a year of online learning, certain groups of students and staff at some San Francisco schools began meeting in person in mid-April. For tens of thousands of students, distance learning continues. The school board and district intend to give every student the option of coming back full time in the fall. But the lawsuit that City Attorney Dennis Herrera filed against the district and board in February to compel them to reopen schools promptly is ongoing even as more students return to campuses. Sara Eisenberg, a deputy city attorney and chief of strategic advocacy in the city attorney’s office, said on “Civic” that the city attorney’s office is continuing the case to ensure that the district actually follows through on its promise.

Signs at a side entrance to Mission High School outline coronavirus safety guidelines for students.

SF School District Charts Paths to Reopening

Some students in the San Francisco Unified School District are back in classrooms — as of April 26, a district statement indicated more than 19,000 children had returned to campuses. But there are tens of thousands more students in the district. The Board of Education has resolved to give all students the option to return to in-person instruction in the fall. Gentle Blythe, deputy superintendent of strategic partnerships and communications with the district, discussed with “Civic”  the impacts of distance learning and next steps for reopening schools. One factor is whether requirements for distance between students in the classroom remain in place, which Blythe said is the biggest limiting factor for classroom capacity. 

“We’re planning for a few different scenarios.

Protesters hold a sign listing demands, in English and Spanish, regarding San Francisco's rent assistance program.

Nonprofit Obstructing Rent Aid for Thousands of San Franciscans

A local group that worked with San Francisco on a public program to allocate rental relief funds is keeping a list of thousands of applicants from city staff, an official confirmed Friday. That has made it impossible to follow up with the applicants and give them additional help.

Q Foundation created the web application tool for rent assistance through San Francisco’s Give2SF COVID-19 Response and Recovery Fund.

Gig Worker Classification Worsens Inequities During Pandemic, Organizer Says

Drivers for apps like Uber, Lyft and DoorDash have said that being classified as independent contractors while working during a pandemic means they face the impossible choice between paying their bills and managing their exposure risk. Cherri Murphy, a lead organizer for Gig Workers Rising, spoke with “Civic” about drivers’ circumstances.

Cynthia Choi

To Stop Asian Hate, Invest in Prevention, Victim Support, Advocate Says

Nearly 4,000 incidents of anti-Asian attacks — including verbal and physical assaults — were reported to Stop AAPI Hate, a national tracking project launched by a coalition of activist groups last year, as of late February 2021. Cynthia Choi, co-executive director of Chinese for Affirmative Action, one of the founding partners of Stop AAPI Hate, reflected on the increase in attacks with “Civic.”


Yes, Mail-Order Boxes Are a Pain for Sanitation Workers

Some customers had their boxes broken down and neatly bundled, which Recology recycling driver Gareth Willey said helps, Willey but too often, he would open a door to a basement and find the boxes piled high, and would have to figure out a way to get all the material out onto the street and into the truck.

Campaign Phone Bankers Pivot to Vaccine Outreach

Former state senate candidate and public bank advocate Jackie Fielder recently launched a political action committee, Daybreak PAC, and has shifted some campaign organizing infrastructure toward a vaccine access effort. Some phone bank volunteers now make calls to seniors living in neighborhoods like the Bayview, to ask if they would like to get vaccinated and if they face any barriers to doing so.