Persistent pandemic empties the streets of San Francisco

Omicron appears to be the main factor affecting slow business in San Francisco. Around the city, there are many empty streets and traffic is noticeably light.

People expressed frustration and fatigue that despite vaccinations and masking, the pandemic is still not over.

There are few people on the streets in commercial hubs and tourist spots.

"We've been here before. It's so quiet. It's so empty. Everywhere we go," said Mayra Echemendia, a visitor from Miami, Florida.

At Palette Tea House in Ghiradelli Square, the general manager said the restaurant enjoyed a busy holiday season.

Dennis Leung said business so far this week has dropped in half compared to the week between Christmas and New Year's Day.

"It was pretty dramatic. It was even more impactful than the first wave of COVID," said Leung.

Video from Monday, Dec. 27 before noon showed a full dining room. Staff said there was an hour and a half wait at times.

But Leung said omicron concerns are now keeping customers away, that there were five cancellations of parties with 20 to 40 people last weekend and no bookings for this weekend.

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"If it drags out more than three weeks, if we talk about another two months or so. that would be very concerning," said Leung.

"Too many may lose hope and feel like we're in this thing forever, but of course we're not in this forever. We have to hold onto hope," said Thomas Plante, psychology professor at Santa Clara University.

He said it's important to remember there is light at the end of the tunnel, even though the pandemic is lasting longer than expected and to practice patience.

"A lot of people, adults, are acting like toddlers out there. Getting all angry and upset on airplanes, restaurants grocery stories. The more kind we are, that has a boomerang effect," Plante said..

At Lola, a gift shop at Pier 39, owner Amy Nanola said business is slower than expected post-holiday,

"People are just getting what they need and limiting their time in the store and that affects business," Nanola said.

Back at the restaurant, they are pivoting to take out once again. It is offering a Chinese New Year feast for takeout or outdoor dining. The idea is to find a way to move forward and remain optimistic.

"It's always nice to see it more lively, but I'm still enjoying it," said Echemendia,

Professor Plante advised people to connect with others safely and get outdoors to exercise. And know that things will get better.