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San Francisco Further Loosens Restrictions on Businesses and Activities

Been missing those knife-juggling performances at Benihana in San Francisco? Well, your long wait is over!

As its coronavirus cases continue to fall and vaccination rates rise, the city is further loosening restrictions on an array of business operations and activities, in compliance with the state’s recently updated guidelines, city health officials announced Thursday.

The new health order gives the green light, among other things, to a broader range of indoor dining and bar activities, allowing food preparation/performance at bars and tables to recommence (think Benihana), lifting the requirement that patrons sit at tables to consume food and beverages, and loosening physical distancing rules.

The order also relaxes a number of size and distancing restrictions for indoor houses of worship, personal services, real estate open houses, recreational sports programs, and youth programs outside of school. The city is additionally lifting some restrictions on small indoor gatherings and removing some operational requirements for outdoor live, seated events.

Additionally, most businesses are no longer required to screen all personnel and patrons before allowing them to participate in on-site activities, and won’t need to submit and receive approval for a health and safety plan in order to establish sections for fully vaccinated patrons.

The move is an effort to slowly phase out restrictions on businesses and other activities, giving businesses flexibility to build out their own operational procedures and protocols in a “post-COVID context,” officials said, as the city prepares to fully reopen, in accordance with the state, on June 15.

“San Francisco is looking more and more every day like the vibrant city that it always has been,” Mayor London Breed said in statement Thursday. “As we approach the last phases of reopening, we will keep doing all we can to build back all of the best parts of our city so that all of us can thrive. We are ready to do this with the same urgency, partnership with the community, and commitment to equity that we have had throughout this pandemic.”

The city has already been in the state’s least restrictive yellow tier for two weeks, allowing it to reopen all businesses and activities, to a degree, that had been shuttered since the beginning of the pandemic last March.

San Francisco has been averaging just 18 new COVID-19 cases per day, with only 13 currently confirmed COVID hospitalizations. “As of May 19, 76% of San Francisco’s eligible population has been vaccinated, meaning the city leads every other American city and indeed most of the world in its rate of vaccination, officials said.

“Currently, our economy is more open, and we are interacting more with each other than we were when we entered our third surge this past winter,” Dr. Grant Colfax, director of the city’s Department of Public Health, said in Thursday’s statement. “But instead of surging again and going into another lockdown, our case rates and hospitalizations continue to fall. That is the power of the vaccines at work in our city.”

See San Francisco’s announcement for the full list of activities that can resume.

— Matthew Green

Copyright 2021 KQED