Rapid rise of COVID cases not causing Bay Area panic, yet

Amid a steady drumbeat of disturbing COVID-19 data, people are figuring out their own risk tolerance.

Friday night in San Francisco's Marina District, some people wore masks while on the sidewalk.

But busy restaurants, where masks are strongly recommended indoors, might have no one in a facial covering.

"If you are not paying attention to what's going on, it's going to continue to go south," said Drew Smith, dining outdoors with two friends at Ace Wasabi, a sushi restaurant.

All are aware of new findings that COVID-19 is as contagious as chickenpox, and spreadable by vaccinated people.

"I do pay attention to it as much as I can," said Smith, "but look around, we all want to be out having a good time and it can't be that way if everyone's not down with the cause."

Smith and his companions are vaccinated, and take comfort in local stats.

"A majority of the city is vaccinated," said Jordan Zucca, of San Francisco.

"And here we are, trying to do what we can, and still live our lives at the same time."

The owner of Ace Wasabi says business may have fallen off a little, but it's seasonal.

"The city's a little quieter right now, naturally, because people are on vacation," said Ken Lowe, "and I think the numbers would have to get scarier to keep people home. We have a lot of intelligent people in this neighborhood."

Lowe is reducing capacity, but not due to COVID-19. he still can't find enough chefs or servers.

And he watches his patrons seating preferences as a measure of how much they're worried.

"So far, so good in terms of people still feeling comfortable eating indoors."

Next door, at longtime steakhouse Izzys, it's a far different story.

Izzy's interior is dark and empty, chairs stacked, as if the shutdown never ended.

Izzys has tables outside, but has never resumed indoor dining.  

"Not until September 7," said Izzys Manager Edwin Rocinos.

And might that change due to the Delta variant ?

"It could," admitted Rocinos, " because everything can change, every day. Right ?"

Eateries continue to do brisk take-out business, and will notice if it begins to overtake sit-down dining.

"I think that's definitely something we'll look for as a cue to what's going on," said bartender Natalie Purcell-O'Dwyer of Delarossa Pizza.

"I think it's realistic to think it's going to get worse before it gets better."

Like many in the food and beverage business, she believes vaccination requirements at more establishments will also bolster public confidence.  

"I think that's a positive thing, and the more bars and restaurants that do it, that's the direction we're headed in."

And strolling Chestnut Street with a to-go burger, a 32-year-old, vaccinated, wearing his mask outdoors.

"There are vaccinated people who are catching it too," said Anthony Pamplin of San Francisco, "and I don't feel completely scared, but cautious."

Pamplin, after an early happy-hour with a friend, was more comfortable eating at home, and will dine-out weekdays when it's quieter.

"It's just less busy, less crowded, also a lot of tourists are coming to the city which is great for businesses but we never really might know what might happen there."

By next week, Bay Area Counties, acting on state and federal advice, are expected to make indoor mask recommendations mandatory for everyone, vaccinated or not.