SAN FRANCISCO - Indoor malls in San Francisco are shut down on Monday because of a surge in cases and hospitalizations as health officials are expected to announce a new health order that will expand coronavirus testing.
Stonestown Galleria and Westfield San Francisco Center opened just last month after shutting down in March, and now they’re closed once again because the city is on California's coronavirus watch list.
An increase in hospitalizations put the city in this spot, so now San Francisco's residents, workers and visitors have to follow state restrictions which says indoor malls and non-essential offices must shut down or limit indoor operations.
Mall stores with outside entrances and offices doing minimum basic operations can stay open. Restaurants can only serve people outdoors and for take out.
Mayor London Breed says to expect these tightened restrictions to be around until the spread of the virus slows down and if it gets worse – they’ll take the shutdowns even further.
The city's health department explained that the virus has a much more difficult time spreading in outdoor environments.
Dr. Catherine James from the San Francisco Department of Public Health said when you're indoors with other people in public, you're more likely to get infected. "So, that is what closing those spaces will help us with," she said.
Opinions on closing the city's mall closures are split. Some were opposed.
"I think it's asinine," said one woman. "I think it's ridiculous. I've listened to several, several medical experts around the country, and they say the way San Francisco is going about it is dead wrong."
Others support the mall closures. "I think it's the right thing to do," said Kevin Campbell from San Francisco. "I mean, unless we all sort of bite the bullet now We're going to be in really really bad shape."
City officials say many new cases of coronavirus can be blamed on family and friends getting together in groups so they ask you limit gatherings and wear a mask.
As for the new health order that’s expected to be issued, officials say the city is meeting testing goals but it’s taking longer for people to get appointments and results.
The health order today will require private health care providers to make same-day testing available for patients who’ve had close contact with coronavirus cases or have symptoms.
"The city of San Francisco, the Department of Public Health is doing 60% of the testing in the city,' said Dr. James. "We are not the primary care providers for 60% of the people in San Francisco. So, the mayor and the health director have asked our private partners to increase their testing."
Private hospitals and clinics will also have to test asymptomatic front line workers.
Last week, San Francisco added a new testing site at the Potrero Hill Health Center.
Mayor Breed has said the city has flattened the curve once, and she's confident city residents can do it again by following the guidelines, including wearing masks and remaining socially distant.