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San Francisco’s Preparations and Response to COVID-19 (Ongoing)

London Breed
Mar 12 · 18 min read

Since the beginning of the novel coronavirus outbreak (COVID-19) in China, San Francisco has been preparing for the eventuality that it will arrive in our city. Protecting public health is our top priority, and the steps that we are taking are based off of recommendations from public health officials.

This page contains an ongoing list of the steps that the City is taking to keep people safe and support our City through this challenging time.

Visiting the Emergency Operations Center at the Department of Emergency Management, which is working around the clock to coordinate the City’s efforts


As of March 29 at 9am, there are 340 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in San Francisco residents.

March 27: San Francisco today announced a plan to create more social distance at the City’s shelters and Navigation Centers by opening a new shelter at Moscone Center West. The new facility at Moscone West will open next week and will operate throughout the duration of the public health emergency, which Mayor London N. Breed declared on February 25th.

This plan will allow the City to relocate some people who are currently in shelters and Navigation Centers to Moscone West, where they will continue to have access to meals, showers and hygiene products, and case management provided by the City and non-profit providers. Referrals to transfer people into Moscone West will come from the Department of Homelessness and Supportive Housing (HSH) in consultation with the Department of Public Health (DPH).

Opening Moscone West as an alternate shelter location is part of a larger effort underway by the City to provide temporary housing or shelter for health care workers, first responders, and vulnerable populations and residents who are under a medical directive to self-quarantine or isolate. This population includes people who live in congregate settings such as single-room occupancy hotels, supportive housing with shared kitchens and bathrooms, and shelters and Navigation Centers.

In advance of the weekend, Mayor Breed today renewed her call for all San Franciscans to stay home and only go outdoors for essential trips near their home, such as to the grocery store or pharmacy and for exercise. Both locally-owned and federally-owned parking lots near beaches and major recreational areas have been closed to prevent people from gathering at these locations.

On March 16, the City issued a Public Health Order requiring that residents remain home to reduce the spread of the coronavirus. Non-essential business, playgrounds, pools and gyms remain closed citywide to discourage group activities and community spread of the virus. Parking lots managed by the City and County of San Francisco have been closed at Ocean Beach, the Beach Chalet, the Marina Green, and Little Marina.

Federal parking areas at Baker Beach, West Bluff, Long Avenue, Battery East, Langdon Court, Navy Memorial, Merrie Way, and Sloat Boulevard at Ocean Beach were closed yesterday. The Mayor also requested that the Federal government close East Beach parking lot at Crissy Field and the parking lot at Fort Funston, which will now both be closed.

Mayor Breed and Dr. Grant Colfax, Director of Health, announced prioritized COVID-19 testing for critical first responders and health care workers who are essential to the City’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as three new mobile testing sites available to members of the public who have a clinician referral.

The San Francisco Health Service System (SFHSS) reached an agreement with the City’s two largest private health service providers, Kaiser Permanente and Blue Shield of California, to prioritize COVID-19 tests for San Francisco first responders and health care workers showing symptoms of the virus. Supporting this agreement, the Department of Public Health (DPH) issued a health advisory this morning to San Francisco clinicians and labs to similarly prioritize testing for these two classes of workers, in addition to high-risk and vulnerable populations.

DPH continues to test City employees who have been exposed to COVID-19 in the workplace and are experiencing symptoms. However, COVID-19 is present in our communities and first responders and healthcare workers may also be exposed in other ways. As an interim step, San Francisco first responders and health care workers who are covered under the City’s Kaiser or Blue Shield health insurance plans can contact their primary care physician starting today and indicate they are in one of the two priority COVID-19 test classes. Upon confirmation that their symptoms indicate that a COVID-19 test is needed, their test will be prioritized along with other tests for high-risk, vulnerable patient classes. The City is also expanding resources available to first responders and healthcare workers through SFHSS and its nurse triage hotlines to assist them with getting tested.

March 26: The City and County of San Francisco today shared guidance for essential businesses that remain open to the public under the City’s Public Health Order to help protect employee health, reduce crowding at essential businesses, and help keep highly-trafficked spaces clean.

Under the guidance, essential businesses such as grocery stores and pharmacies should establish protocols to keep six feet of distance between customers; clean and disinfect regularly; and make hand sanitizer, sanitizing wipes, or soap, water and paper towels readily available. The City is providing signage to support stay at home and social distance messaging for businesses.

March 25: Mayor Breed, Director of Health Dr. Grant Colfax, Dr. David Klein, President and CEO of Saint Francis Memorial Hospital and Chair of the San Francisco Section-Hospital Council Northern & Central California, and Mark R. Laret, President and Chief Executive Officer of UCSF Health, joined with all San Francisco hospitals to present their unified COVID-19 surge plan and call for more federal and state support.

For weeks, San Francisco hospitals and public health officials have been working on a unified plan to relieve pressure on local hospitals and increase capacity during an expected surge in COVID-19 patients who will require hospitalization. While current efforts are sufficient to meet the needs of an initial surge of patients, the hospital system needs more support to meet a larger surge.

By analyzing the needs being called for in New York, where the hospital system is undergoing an unprecedented surge in COVID-19 patients, San Francisco estimates it could need as many as 1,500 more ventilators and 5,000 more hospital beds to meet a similar surge. Today, Mayor Breed officially requested more assistance from both the state and federal government to help local efforts to expand capacity in preparation for this surge. She also joined public health officials in calling on the public to continue to follow public health orders to stay home and limit outings to essential needs.

March 24: Mayor Breed announced that she has waived all regulations and provisions in City codes that would otherwise apply to coronavirus response efforts deemed necessary by the Director of Health Dr. Grant Colfax.

In order to allow the City to respond quickly to the escalating coronavirus pandemic, all City codes and provisions that would apply to temporary medical or health facilities, such as permitting restrictions, requirements for public notice, applicable fees, or any other regulations, will no longer apply for the duration of the Local Emergency. Mayor Breed issued this order as part of a Supplement to the Local Emergency Declaration she made on February 25th.

March 23: Mayor Breed today announced that San Francisco hired 82 qualified nurses this weekend as part of the City’s efforts to rapidly expand capacity in the City’s health care network to respond to coronavirus. Additionally, the City is procuring one million N-95 personal protective masks from the state, which will immediately be put to use by front line workers.

The nurse hiring took place this weekend at two hiring fairs that were announced by Mayor Breed last week. Mayor Breed issued a Declaration waiving provisions of Civil Service Commission Rules and provisions of the Charter regarding hiring, allowing the City to hire employees that are necessary to respond to the COVID-19 local emergency. The City expects to hire another 140 nurses in the coming weeks for a total of roughly 220 new nurses.

San Francisco will procure one million masks from the California Office of Emergency Services to ensure that front line workers have the equipment they need to protect themselves from coronavirus while treating patients and responding to emergencies.

Mayor Breed announced an Arts Relief Program to invest directly in working artists and arts and cultural organizations financially impacted by COVID-19. The investment is a combination of funding strategies designed to help the arts and culture community through grants and low-interest loans to organizations and working artists most impacted by this crisis. The Arts Relief Program will be funded by an initial $2.5 million from the City.

Mayor Breed announced the City has identified three priority areas for the immediate use of the Give2SF COVID-19 Response and Recovery Fund: food security; access to housing; and security for workers and small businesses. The Hellman Foundation will contribute $1 million, and Ann and Gordon Getty will contribute $1 million to the Give2SF Fund. Mayor Breed announced additional contributions to the Give2SF Fund from Crankstart Foundation, Stupski Foundation, Tom and Theresa Preston-Werner, Cruise co‑founders Kyle Vogt and Dan Kan, and Mark Pincus. Salesforce and Wells Fargo previously announced contributions to the Fund.

March 21: Mayor Breed and Supervisor Catherine Stefani announced a large donation of personal protective equipment (PPE) for frontline healthcare workers. Flexport, a San Francisco-based company, donated surgical masks, gloves, gowns, and thermometers to San Francisco’s efforts to respond to COVID-19. Supplies include 60,000 surgical masks, 34,000 gloves, 2,000 surgical gowns, and 50 thermometers.

March 20: Mayor Breed announced that San Francisco’s emergency child and youth care centers will expand their operating hours to better align with the schedule of health care workers. The San Francisco Recreation and Park Department will also expand their emergency care program to provide child care for additional essential employees. This is part of the City’s efforts to support essential workers during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Mayor Breed clarified that the recent statewide shelter in place declaration is complementary to San Francisco’s order. San Franciscan’s should continue to follow the local guidance here.

March 17: Mayor Breed announced a moratorium on commercial evictions for small and medium-sized businesses related to financial impacts caused by COVID-19. The moratorium will prevent any small to medium-sized business from being evicted due to a loss of income related to lost revenue or other economic impacts caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

The small and medium-sized business eviction moratorium will be in effect for 30 days, and can be extended by the Mayor for another 30 days through an Executive Order. If the Local Emergency declared by the Mayor is rescinded at any point, the moratorium will cease to be in effect.

This commercial eviction moratorium will apply to businesses with a license to operate in San Francisco that have less than $25 million in annual gross receipts. This follows a moratorium on residential evictions that Mayor Breed announced on March 13th.

Mayor Breed announced a Declaration to expedite City hiring of employees that are necessary to respond to the COVID-19 local emergency. Mayor Breed’s Declaration temporarily waives provisions of Civil Service Commission Rules and provisions of the Charter regarding hiring, in order to ensure continuity of City operations in response to COVID-19. Critical City employees include nurses and other public health professionals.

This Declaration allows the Department of Public Health (DPH) to hire nurses and other front line health care workers more quickly, which will help the health care system in San Francisco respond to the COVID-19 pandemic. Typically, the hiring process for nurses takes six months or more. This change allows the City to hire qualified, licensed nurses “on the spot,” rather than through the normal months-long process.

March 16:

Mayor London Breed today announced that the Health Officer of the City and County of San Francisco has issued a Public Health Order requiring that residents remain in place, with the only exception being for essential needs. This measure is necessary to slow the spread of novel coronavirus (COVID-19) in the community. The Order is effective as of midnight on Tuesday, March 17th and is effective until April 7th, 2020, or until it is extended.

The Order directs all residents to remain at their place of residence, except to conduct Essential Activities, Essential Businesses, and Essential Government Functions. When conducting an allowed activity, people must maintain at least 6 feet of social distancing from everyone other than household members.

All businesses, other than Essential Businesses and Essential Government Functions, are required to cease all operations. All public and private gatherings of any number of people occurring outside a single family or living unit are prohibited, except for the exemptions listed below.

All travel, including but not limited to walking, biking, driving, or taking public transit is prohibited, except to perform Essential Activities, operate Essential Businesses, or to maintain Essential Government Functions. Individuals may go on a walk, get exercise, or take a pet outside to go to the bathroom, as long as at least six feet of social distancing is maintained. People riding on public transit must maintain at least six feet of social distancing from other passengers.

The full announcement can be found here.

The full Health Order can be found here.

A list of FAQs can be found here.

Mayor Breed announced the Workers and Families First Program to provide paid sick leave to private sector workers who have been impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. This plan will include $10 million in public funding that will provide businesses with funding to provide an additional five days of sick leave pay to workers beyond their existing policies.

The Workers and Families First Program will reduce economic impacts on San Francisco workers and businesses caused by coronavirus, and encourage employees to stay home when they are sick or caring for a family member. If fully used, this program would support over 16,000 additional weeks of sick leave pay, providing coverage for up to 25,000 San Francisco employees.

March 14: Mayor Breed today announced that the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission (SFPUC) will no longer shut off water or power for delinquent payments, and that both the SFPUC and the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency (SFMTA) will no longer add penalties on to delinquent payments during the City’s Local Emergency response to coronavirus. These actions are part of the City’s response to reduce financial impacts on individuals during the COVID-19 pandemic.

March 13: Mayor London N. Breed today announced that the Health Officer of the City and County of San Francisco has issued a Public Health Order prohibiting all non-essential events of 100 or more persons. This measure is necessary to slow the spread of novel coronavirus (COVID-19) in the community. The Order is in effect until April 30, 2020.

Mayor Breed announced a moratorium on residential evictions related to financial impacts caused by COVID-19. The moratorium will prevent any resident from being evicted due to a loss of income related to a business closure, loss of hours or wages, layoffs, or out-of-pocket medical costs caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. The Mayor issued this moratorium under the powers of the Local Emergency she declared on February 25th.

San Francisco Unified School District announced that starting on March 17th, SFUSD will provide free breakfast and lunch to all children 18 and younger at 14 pick-up sites Monday through Friday. No identification or proof of school enrollment is required, but a child must be present. More info and locations here.

Mayor Breed announced that beginning Monday, March 16 the Recreation and Park Department and the San Francisco Public Library will begin to operate libraries and indoor recreation facilities as emergency care facilities for children of parents on the front lines of the COVID-19 outbreak and low-income families. Both agencies will suspend regular indoor programming effective Friday, March 13 at 6 p.m.

The decision comes in the wake of public school closures and other safety measures the City is undertaking to respond to the spread of COVID-19. Parents on the front line include San Francisco-based hospital staff, Department of Public Health employees, and activated Disaster Service Workers.

March 12: San Francisco Unified School District announces that schools will be be closed for two weeks beginning on Monday.

Mayor Breed announced a new policy that will allow City employees who are impacted by COVID-19 to get early access to their vacation time and paid sick leave. San Francisco is leading by example by allowing workers an advance of their paid time off in the event that they cannot work due to COVID-19 and related public health recommendations. The City is encouraging private companies to be similarly flexible with their paid time off policies.

Mayor Breed also announced that the Health Officer of the City and County of San Francisco has issued a Public Health Order prohibiting non-essential visitors from entering long-term care facilities within San Francisco city limits. This measure is necessary to slow the spread of novel coronavirus in the community. It builds on the City’s public health recommendations and a prior Public Health Order issued on March 7th regarding City-owned and operated long-term care facilities at Laguna Honda and Zuckerberg San Francisco General hospitals.

Because of their age or medical conditions, residents of long-term care facilities are at elevated risk of getting seriously ill, or even dying, if they get COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus. Since the virus is circulating in the community, visitors to those facilities may have it and have mild symptoms or be asymptomatic and, therefore, expose vulnerable residents to infection. This new Public Health Order requires 18 private long-term care facilities in the City to exclude non-essential visitors from entry or access. Laguna Honda Hospital and Zuckerberg San Francisco General Hospital’s skilled nursing unit began restricting visitors as of March 7th.

March 11: The Health Officer of the City and County of San Francisco issued a Public Health Order prohibiting all large group events of 1,000 or more persons. This measure is necessary to slow the spread of COVID-19 in the community and builds on the City’s March 6th public health recommendations. For all other gatherings, the Health Officer strongly recommends following the social distancing protocols attached to this Order, including canceling, rescheduling, or not attending events with more than 250 persons. And organizations that serve high-risk populations should cancel gatherings of more than 10 people. Today, the Department of Public Health issued updated recommendations, which can be found here.

Mayor Breed announced measures to support small businesses in San Francisco that are experiencing a slowdown in business as a result of COVID‑19, including the deferral of business taxes and licensing fees, and the launch of an economic relief fund.

Announcing measures to support small businesses, non-profits, and workers affected by the economic impact caused by COVID-19

March 10: As the City continues to strengthen its response to reduce the spread of COVID-19, San Francisco is working to provide quarantine locations for individuals who have tested positive for COVID-19 and do not need to be hospitalized, as well as individuals who have been exposed to the virus and do not have access to adequate shelter due to homelessness or shared living arrangements. Shared-living situations include SROs, shelters, and Permanent Supportive Housing.

Temporary isolation housing will include recreational vehicles (RVs), which have been leased and will be staged in the Presidio. The RVs will be placed in various secure locations throughout the city as needed. The City is also in the process of identifying additional locations for auxiliary quarantine housing, including unoccupied residential property. As the City continues to work to secure additional locations, City leaders are asking local hotels to join in identifying vacant hotel rooms for this purpose so that San Francisco can be better prepared to care for all of its residents.

March 9: Mayor London Breed and the California Big City Mayors met with Governor Newsom and discuss the latest developments of COVID-19 in California. Mayor Breed urges for state action to support businesses and workers affected by the economic impact caused by the spread of the virus.

Mayor Breed, Supervisor Aaron Peskin, and the Department of Public Health announce $5 million in new investments, as well as a Public Health Order to protect vulnerable populations who are at risk of becoming ill or dying if they contract COVID-19, the disease caused by the new coronavirus. These emergency funds and Order will focus on reducing risk of exposure to the virus for the many marginally housed seniors, people with underlying health conditions, and individuals experiencing homelessness, living in shelters, single-room occupancy hotels (SROs), and Permanent Supportive Housing.

These initiatives include expanded cleaning in shelters, resource centers, and SROs; increased meal offerings and expanded shelter hours for the few shelters that are not already 24/7 to encourage homeless individuals to remain in shelters; enhanced meal delivery programs for individuals in SROs who have been previously advised to limit their outings in the community; and funding to support cleaning in privately owned single-room occupancy hotels. This funding was released in conjunction with a Public Health Order issued by the Health Officer of the City and County of San Francisco to establish required cleaning and contagion mitigation protocols in SROs and other congregate settings.

March 7: The City issues a Public Health Order restricting non-essential group events at City-owned facilities.

The San Francisco Department of Public Health (DPH) lab conducted COVID-19 tests for the patients and found positive results. All six people are isolated at home in good condition. Each of them has had known contact with a person with confirmed COVID-19.

March 6: Mayor London Breed, the San Francisco Department of Public Health and the Department of Emergency Management announce aggressive new recommendations for San Francisco to reduce the spread of COVID-19 in the community.

The City is taking swift action upon the confirmation yesterday of two COVID-19 cases among San Francisco residents that indicated community spread of the virus. Today’s recommendations for social distancing are intended to disrupt the spread of the virus and protect community health. These are systemic as well as individual changes that will make a difference in people’s lives. Although the recommendations will cause inconvenience, they are necessary and worthwhile to reduce the spread of the virus and interrupt its transmission from person to person. The full list of recommendations can be found here.

The City launches a text notification service through AlertSF for regular updates. Individuals can text COVID19SF to 888–777 to sign up.

March 5: The City announces first presumptive positive cases of COVID-19 in two San Francisco residents. San Francisco officials also provided updates about the status of the Grand Princess cruise ship.

The San Francisco Department of Public Health (DPH) lab conducted COVID-19 tests for the two patients, and found positive results. The two patients are unrelated and both are being cared for at separate hospitals. The patients do not have a history of travel to a location with confirmed COVID-19 cases, and have no known contact with a person with a confirmed COVID-19 case. These cases are likely indicative of community transmission of COVID-19. All appropriate precautions for the patient, visitors, and hospital staff are being taken. DPH informed the patients’ families this morning, and is investigating the patients’ history and contacts to protect the health of individuals and help slow the spread of the virus in the community.

March 2: Mayor London N. Breed and San Francisco Public Health and Emergency officials announced new plans to protect public health and strengthen preparations for potential community spread of novel coronavirus in San Francisco. These plans include new local testing for COVID-19 by the San Francisco Department of Public Health (DPH), prioritization for protection of vulnerable populations, and increased City staff and volunteer deployment.

February 25: Mayor Breed declared a local emergency to boost San Francisco’s preparedness efforts. The declaration of a local emergency is a legal document that will mobilize City resources, accelerate emergency planning, streamline staffing, coordinate agencies across the city, allow for future reimbursement by the state and federal governments and raise awareness throughout San Francisco about how everyone can prepare in the event that COVID-19 (novel coronavirus) appears in our community.

January 27: San Francisco activates the Emergency Operations Center in the Department of Emergency Management to coordinate the City’s preparedness and response efforts to the emerging novel coronavirus.

For a full list of recommendations and resources, please visit You can also sign up for our text alert system by texting COVID19SF to 888–777.

Remember, these are the best ways for all San Franciscans to reduce their risk of getting sick, and preventing COVID-19:

  • Wash hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds.

You can also prepare for the possible disruption caused by an outbreak:

  • Prepare to work from home if that is possible for your job, and your employer.

London Breed

Written by

45th Mayor of the City and County of San Francisco

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