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Bay Area Headlines: Tuesday, 5/19/20, PM

COVID-19 Status Update / The Future For Restaurants

COVID-19 Status Update

The Bay Area appears to have turned a corner in the number of severe coronavirus cases. This will be critical as the state and local governments announce more reopening plans. 

Bay Area counties reported a total of 263 confirmed COVID-19 hospitalizations over the weekend. This is a huge drop from the record number of cases reported last month.

County health officials also announced that there had been no reported COVID-19 deaths on Sunday or Monday. This is the longest we’ve gone without a virus-related death since early March, before the region even implemented its shelter in place orders.

These are just some of the numbers that the governor and health officials are monitoring as they consider reopening non-essential businesses.

Governor Gavin Newsom announced on Monday that for counties to reopen to businesses they needed to have no more than five percent increase in hospitalizations over the last seven days. But, he also said each county can move at its own pace.

“And we are empowering our local health directors and county officials that understand their local communities and conditions better than any of us.”

Some counties, like San Francisco and Marin, have loosened some shelter in place restrictions, allowing curbside retail pickup.

Obviously, the decrease in hospitalizations good news. But, the Bay Area is still one of the hardest-hit in the state. New cases continue to pop up as San Francisco and Oakland prepare to open new testing sites this week.

The Future For Restaurants

A big question looming over counties’ re-opening is how small businesses are going to operate. A new survey from a San Francisco restaurant trade group finds that they can’t survive by doing takeout and deliveries alone.

The Golden Gate Restaurant Association conducted a survey of the businesses it represents to find out what they need to stay open in this time of COVID. 

And it turns out, the results weren’t great. 

So far restaurant owners have been getting by through a variety of adjustments, such as applying for federal loans, sacking their entire staff, and getting their landlords to defer their rent. 

There’s been a lot of talk in the Bay Area about reopening restaurants with outdoor seating. But only about 40 percent of San Francisco restaurants have permits for this. Just over a third of them said that this arrangement wouldn’t work. 

And most restaurant owners say they need financial help to fund the extra equipment they need to operate safely. 

One of the biggest problems that needs to be addressed, though, is that the majority of restaurant owners say that they can’t keep kitchen staff six feet away from each other.

The association recognizes that their survey is limited. it only represents about 10 percent of restaurants in San Francisco. And even though the survey was available in a couple languages, only English speakers responded. 

The association says that in order for businesses to be viable in this new reality, they’ll need financial aid, clear reopening guidelines, help sourcing and paying for protective equipment, and the ability to use public outdoor space to seat guests.

Precious has lived in and loved the Bay Area since 2012 when she moved from Atlanta, Georgia. Her reporting interests include the politics of race and gender and pop culture as a reflection of our changing cultural landscape. Prior to joining KALW, Precious worked with a variety of community development, social impact and economic equity focused organizations. Before moving to the Bay Area, she practiced law in her hometown.
Sarah Lai Stirland is a freelance journalist and editor living in the South Bay. Her reporting background is in technology, science writing, law and policy. For the past few years, she's written about issues related to aging.