San Francisco prepares for a different kind of New Year’s Eve

San Francisco health leaders said there are encouraging signs that infection rates are dropping. But that good news comes with a warning about New Year’s Eve celebrations.

The head of the Department of Public Health is saying these latest data don't reflect a possible surge from families gathering over Christmas, and he says it is critical that we buckle down this New Year’s Eve.

Traditionally, New Year’s Eve is a time of celebration with family and friends. But celebrations to mark the end of 2020 will be muted by stay home orders and COVID-19.

Dr. Grant Colfax, San Francisco's Director Of Public Health, said the city's COVID-19 indicators may be turning around due to strict orders to avoid contact with others outside of your household.

"We are seeing some reasons for hope, but we are still in a precarious position,' said Colfax.

Colfax says numbers appear to have peaked since the post-Thanksgiving surge. For now, the city and the Bay Area waits to see if a surge in Christmas travel will lead to a surge in COVID-19 cases in January. The doctor said if people celebrate New Year's Eve this year as they have in years past, gathering in big groups and sharing meals,the results could be a surge upon a surge.

"I can't emphasize enough how catastrophic it will be if people celebrate in ways that we normally do for New Year's Eve," said Dr. Colfax. "If we see a surge like we did on Thanksgiving, as you see from the numbers, thousands more people in the hospital, hundreds more people dying."

Tony Marcell from Wayfare Tavern in San Francisco says New Year’s Eve is usually a big day for restaurants.

"For us in the restaurant community this is one of our top nights of the year and so I guess the best thing that we could see is continuing to move it forward by sharing and getting out there with the community even though they can't come and gather," said Marcell.

MORE: Struggling Bay Area restaurants find creative ways to survive

Marcell is hoping that New Year’s celebrants help support local businesses. He says Wayfare tavern has pivoted, offering New Year’s Eve packages for people to share at home this year. He's even re-imagining the tradition of buying a round for friends and family, offering a way to buy food or drink and sent it to a someone you'd ordinarily be celebrating with in person.

"If you were at a place somebody would treat somebody else and a friend, and the same thing can happen today around the Bay Area and they can pick it up and drop if off or however they'd like to do it," said Marcell. "That was our vision."

San Francisco's public health director says there is a lot of reason for hope going into this New Year, with vaccines already having been delivered to more than 4,000 front-line workers.

He said the more people work to slow the spread of coronavirus now, the sooner the stay at home orders will be lifted and the sooner we can return to a new normal in the New Year.

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