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It’s not over: Bay Area coronavirus shelter orders extended again

“The curve is flat,” but so are the odds of a speedy reopening

A blue and white sign on a nature trail warning hikers to keep six feet apart. Photo by Gabrielle Lurie/The San Francisco Chronicle via Getty Images

Update: On Monday, San Francisco joined Alameda, Contra Costa, Marin, San Mateo and Santa Clara counties in pushing the shelter-in-place orders through the end of May with a joint statement by the counties’ health officers.

“Prematurely lifting restrictions could easily lead to a large surge in cases,” note the group of health officers. They add that some prohibitions on public travel and behavior could ease in May, but decline to make any specific policy changes just yet.

As it stands, San Francisco’s shelter-in-place order expires May 3. But before anybody makes big plans, City Hall honchos all but guaranteed another extension of the prohibitions at a Friday press conference.

Asked directly whether the city could begin reopening businesses and public spaces before hitting COVID-19 testing goals of every person in SF, Department of Public Health (DPH) Chief Dr. Grant Colfax declined to say yes or no.

“We need to be flexible,” he said, saying that the city still needs to implement tools before reopening, including robust contact tracing.

Colfax hinted at a multi-phase process through which the city reopens one step at a time, noting that a “number of switches” been to be flipped as shelter orders gradually relax.

“The curve is flat,” said Colfax of the confirmed coronavirus cases in SF. However, he was quick to add that there’s still no immediate end in sight. As of Sunday, DPH confirmed over 1,400 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in San Francisco, with 22 of them fatal.

Mayor London Breed agreed, saying “we know that we’re not there yet.” She anticipates that the city will remain in limbo beyond May 3.

Although Breed has authority over SF’s ongoing state of emergency, Tomas Aragon, the city’s health officer, who issued the original shelter-in-place in March, has the power to extend or dismiss it.

Speaking of possible economic effects, Breed noted that roughly 60,000 people in SF have filed for unemployment, and she says her office expects another 40,000 in the near future, for an equivalent of one in every nine residents.

City accountants project a budget hole up to $1.7 billion next year, which Breed says will mean “major shifts in priorities indefinitely.” The mayor declined to speculate about specific effects on the next city budget.

Meanwhile in Solano County, Health Officer Dr. Bela Maytas extended the North Bay county’s shelter-in-place order through May 17. The statewide stay-at-home order from Gov. Gavin Newsom has no expiration date.