COVID-19 Cases Spike Among Homeless San Franciscans

Coronavirus cases have soared this month among San Francisco’s homeless population and residents of the city’s single-room-occupancy hotels. The city reported 59 confirmed cases of COVID-19 among unhoused people from Dec. 1 to Dec. 18, more than in September, October and November combined.

San Francisco officials are requiring any residents who leave the Bay Area to quarantine for 10 days upon their return.

10-Day Quarantine Required for Anyone Coming to S.F. From Outside Bay Area

In the latest effort to slow a post-Thanksgiving surge in coronavirus infections, San Francisco has issued a strict quarantine order.

Anyone traveling, moving or returning to San Francisco from outside the 10-county Bay Area to quarantine for 10 days. The quarantine requirement applies to visitors, people moving here and returning residents alike. There are exceptions for medical professionals, first responders, essential workers and others.

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Overdoses Have Killed More Than Three Times as Many People as COVID-19 in San Francisco

While COVID-19 deaths have the potential for exponential growth due to the nature of a viral pandemic, they are dwarfed by the number of people who have died from drug overdoses in the city this year.

As of Dec. 16, the San Francisco Department of Public Health reports that 172 people have died from COVID-19. The number of overdose deaths reported through the end of October stood at 570. There were 441 in 2019.

Protesters from POOR magazine, a publication and activist organization, attempted to occupy the Marriott Marquis hotel in downtown San Francisco in May to demand the city house more homeless residents in the thousands of hotel rooms left vacant during the coronavirus pandemic. City supervisors voted to expand the hotel room shelter program this week.

City Extends Shelter-in-Place Hotel Program

The city will house more people in hotel rooms than it had planned thanks to a law the Board of Supervisors passed unanimously Tuesday.

The legislation, drafted by Supervisor Matt Haney, establishes an emergency ordinance that requires the city to continue its practice of housing homeless people in hotel rooms while COVID-19 remains a risk. Emergency ordinances are used to rapidly respond to crises such as pandemics, and last 60 days.

The temporary ban on outdoor dining is dealing another financial blow to workers and owners. It means the Mission District's Atlas Cafe, pictured here, is just one of many restaurants that can't use newly constructed parklets to serve customers.

Restaurant Workers Out of Options as Work and Benefits Dry Up During Lockdown

The latest pandemic order shutting down outdoor dining struck a devastating blow to restaurant owners and workers who have tried to adapt.

Maria Moreno with the Restaurant Opportunity Center United of the Bay in Oakland said the food service industry is reeling. “So many of the people in the industry are out of work right now, both undocumented and documented,” she said. “They’re just left behind right now. We’re talking like, half of the industry or more.”

During the pandemic, San Francisco has housed about 2,200 homeless residents in shelter-in-place hotels, including the Buena Vista Inn at Lombard and Gough streets.

Supervisors Divided on Plan to Extend Shelter-in-Place Hotels

Some city supervisors are pushing to continue using hotel rooms occupied by vulnerable homeless residents during the pandemic for a second cohort after current room residents are moved into other housing. Proponents say that despite a possible loss of federal emergency funds, discontinuing the program too soon would leave thousands unsheltered during the health emergency.

Stephanie, 57, lost her housing two years ago and was sleeping in a tent in the Tenderloin as of June. Like all the unhoused people photographed here, she was eventually relocated to a shelter-in-place hotel room. Close to half the residents of those hotel rooms are African American, according to an assessment by the city that only covered about half the hotel population.

Shelter-in-Place Hotel Wind-Down Plan Lacks Adequate Data, Strategy on Race

Though roughly three-fourths of the assessed residents of San Francisco’s shelter-in-place hotels are minorities, the city has no plan to assure that those people get safe landing spots in proportion to their race as it prepares to wind down the program.

Of particular concern for advocates is the priority list used to determine how to allocate housing to those experiencing homelessness. This system, called coordinated entry, does not take into account race when determining who is most in need of housing, despite the predominance of African Americans among hotel residents, service providers say.

Lt. Cmdr. Michael Heimes checks on a patient connected to a ventilator at Baton Rouge General Mid City campus in April 2020

Nurse to COVID Risk-Takers: ‘If You Are Hospitalized, It Will Only Be You in That Room’

While the availability of personal protective equipment like N-95 masks has improved, a local nurse said nurses are feeling overwhelmed and would be better able to provide care with a bigger staff. For patients, she said, the experience of being hospitalized with COVID-19 is one of isolation. Even nurses limit their interactions with these patients to prevent getting infected, performing their tasks quickly.