San Francisco set for yellow tier upgrade next Friday

In just the last month, San Francisco seemed poised to move to the yellow tier only to be disappointed as COVID rates stalled. Now the city's public health leaders can confidently say they are on the verge of moving to the yellow tier on May 7.

The city's acting health officer says the city's COVID numbers have been trending the right direction for two weeks, which mean as soon as next week, indoor bars can reopen to 25% capacity, or 100 people, and businesses can expand.

The move will allow for restaurants, movie theaters, and gyms to raise capacity to 50%. 

San Francisco has been here before, with low infection rates and high expectations that it would move to the yellow tier, only to be disappointed. The last time the city made it to the yellow tier was October of last year, before any vaccine was available.

Now, the city's health leaders are saying with increased vaccinations and decreased infections, it truly seems like the city  is on the right track.

"We qualified for yellow tier last week. You have to have two weeks consecutively in a row in order to move into yellow tier and we are anticipating that to be announced next week," said Dr. Susan Philip, San Francisco's Acting Health Officer.

In practical terms that means a wider opening for businesses. Restaurants will likely be able to allow more indoor seating and bars can reopen, a vital part of the city's hospitality industry.

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"We are going to serve indoors just as indoor restaurants do," said Dr. Philip. "People don't have to have food with their drinks. But, they do have to be seated, their tables have to  be six feet apart."

The move to yellow also means that some of the events that draw people to San Francisco can expand as well. Outdoor events like baseball games and indoor events like basketball can both expand, and it even means that some of the tourist and convention business on which the city relies can welcome visitors back.

San Francisco's Chamber of Commerce says the expected shift to yellow tier is good news for local businesses, which need predictability and reliability to restock and rehire staff.

"Our data at the SF Chamber of Commerce is actually showing that since we did emerge from the purple tier in April, we have seen a net increase of about 10% in consumer spending," said Emily Abraham from San Francisco's Chamber of Commerce. "Paired with the increase in job postings that we're also seeing."

The next major step from the state is June 15, the date the governor has set for a full reopening.

"We know everyone is fixated on June 15th, and what that's going to mean, "said Dr. Philip. "My goal is for us to have a smooth transition up to and past that date. It's not going to be a switch on and off, it's going to be a gradual removing of restrictions."

While the city is expected to move to the yellow tier, the new rules likely wouldn't take effect until next Friday. Meanwhile, health experts are stressing that people need to continue to do what got the city to this point. They say despite word from the CDC that face coverings may not be necessary outdoors, they are still mandated under the city's health directives.