Angelika As we're regular viewers of the German news show Tagesschau, every single day for more than a decade to be exact, we've recently become aware about how different countries are imposing very different types of restrictions on their citizens to battle the Corona crisis. We learned that apparently in Germany, there's nothing more important than traveling to your summer vacation destination. In comparison, I'd be quite happy already if at least my hair salon would be allowed to open again. It feels like we're stuck in a time capsule here in San Francisco. Mayor London Breed has put city life to a grinding halt since mid March, and there's been hardly any remediation since. I keep getting emails from the hair salon that they're going to open real soon now, but several dates have now been canceled, because Corona case numbers kept bouncing back. I've come to the conclusion that we'll have to wait until a vaccine is available, to see the city come back to life.
Since our last newsletter (Rundbrief 05/2020), there's been very little change, except that some stores which are offering their services outside, are allowed to open now. Restaurants are permitted to serve their customers at outside tables as well, also, the San Francisco Zoo and our Botanic Garden are again open to the public. Several gyms have moved their equipment onto the adjacent sidewalks, where members are allowed to work out. Unfortunately, outside business is hampered right now by the extremely bad air quality due to the recent wild fires in the area, which keeps desperately needed customers away, creating cash flow problems.
Also, summer camps with up to twelve children are permitted, and preschool classes with small groups have reopened in San Francisco. But all public schools in San Francisco remain closed! For retail business like clothing stores, there's strict mask and social distancing regulations, but they're open. The sad truth, however, is that many small and medium sized stores ran out of money and have been shuttered permanently. According to a survey conducted by the chamber of commerce, a whopping 54% of all stores went out of business! When I went to a dentist's appointment in July in downtown San Francisco (which has been permitted since June), the city was deserted, with many businesses looking rather bleak with boarded up window fronts.
What's confusing is that our governor Gavin Newsom lays out regulations for all of California, but individual cities and counties are permitted to have stricter rules. This results in wildly fluctuating restrictions even within a few miles, impacting daily life in different ways. At first, a so-called "watch list" determined what kind of restrictions individual counties in California had to enforce. If a county had the bad luck of landing on this watch list, certain stores had to close and various activities were shuttered.
To avoid ending up on this list, the county needs to have less than 100 cases per population of 100,000, averaged over 14 days. Also, the positive test rate must be lower than 8%. In addition, the hospitalization rate for Covid patients must be less than 10%, averaged over three days, and more than 20% of all IC units must be available. All Bay Area counties, including San Francisco, were on the list, but none managed to get off of it. The "watch list" reaped lots of criticism. And, totally out of the blue, governor Gavin Newsom announced at the end of August, that California had discontinued using the "watch list" in favor of a four color classification system (Figure 5 and California's Covid Information Page). It determines which businesses are allowed to open. Each county's color/class is determined by its infection rate and its positve test rate.
If county is in the yellow tier, meaning that there's less than one infected person per 100,000 residents, and also less than 2% of tests administered come back positive, practically all businesses are allowed to open. Counties in the (worst) purple tier, with more than seven infected of a population of 100,000, or a positive test rate of more than 8%, are in a dire place, because only absolutely essential businesses like grocery stores are allowed to open. Currently, San Francisco is in the red tier (4-7 infected per 100,000 and 2%-4.9% postitive test rate), and governor Gavin Newsom allowed hair salons to open with enhanced safety precaution protocols.
Also, California schools were allowed to open as well, but San Francisco mayor London Breed prefers a more careful approach. Hair salons in San Francisco are only allowed to cut hair outside in the open air. San Francisco schools are still closed. And the hair salon I go to doesn't want to offer their services on the sidewalk, so it's still Michael coloring and cutting my hair. In the meantime, he's gotten so good at it that we may be opening our own salon soon. Edit