Covid spikes challenge the city / Breed details U.N. Plaza 'linkage center'
1.4.22 * Circulation 4,382 * 189 members
Hey there, San Francisco.
I had another story planned for the top, but after seeing this video on SFist of six-block lines for Covid tests in the Mission, it seems like there’s no other place to start.
In a major way, Omicron is upon us. Restaurants say they are short-staffed and some are temporarily closing, while firefighters around the city are working mandatory overtime to cover for colleagues who have tested positive. Some 600 classrooms are without teachers or aides, the Chronicle reported today, forcing district officials with teaching credentials to fill in, including SFUSD Superintendent Vincent Matthew who taught science to sixth graders on Tuesday.
The current average for new cases per day in San Francisco is 829. That’s up from a previous high of 373 new cases per day back in January 2021.
On Tuesday, Mayor Breed said the city would work to increase its testing capabilities. And judging by the video above, that seems very necessary.
The good news (as I’m sure I’m not the first to tell you) is that the effects from Omicron appear to be milder than prior variants. While new cases in the city are at an all-time high, hospitalizations remain below previous surges.
I thought San Francisco Public Health Director Dr. Grant Colfax put it well on Tuesday when he said: “The Omicron variant is challenging us even more than Delta to manage this disease while keeping our economy, schools and other essential services open. We need to quickly adapt to periods of high transmission, like right now.”
And with that…onto some more news…
Top story: One thing you should know
On Tuesday, Mayor Breed announced details about the cornerstone of her Emergency Declaration for the Tenderloin–the leasing of a previously vacant seven-story building located on U.N. Plaza that will connect people to behavioral health services, temporary winter shelter, substance use treatment, and more. The “linkage center,” which will also offer food, hygiene supplies, and “dignity services” on-site, could open within the next two weeks.
“It will absolutely save lives,” Supervisor Matt Haney said of the site.
Still, as the Chronicle wrote on Tuesday, the mayor’s state of emergency in the Tenderloin has become “controversial after [she] said in December she would ‘make life hell’ for people inflicting violence and dealing and using drugs. Twice in December, Breed said that people using on the street would have an option to either go to the center or treatment - or jail. Breed’s department heads later softened that stance.”
As part of her announcement on Tuesday, Breed said that within the last three weeks, 33 arrests had been made in the Tenderloin involving drug dealing, including the seizure of some 3,000 grams of fentanyl. Also, she said, within the past week, 58 people living on the street had been placed into a “non-congregate” shelter.
Quick bits: Bite-sized news stories from across the city
🚔 On Monday at around 3:30 pm near the Embarcadero, a shooting left one person dead, marking the first homicide in San Francisco in 2022. The SFPD told me on Tuesday that there were 56 homicides in the city in 2021. That was up from 48 homicides in 2020 and 41 in 2019. (Chronicle)
👀 Eater SF released its list of most anticipated Bay Area restaurant openings of 2022 on Tuesday. San Francisco restaurants to keep an eye on include Heyday Pub & Bottle Club (scheduled to open in January), Birch & Rye (also to open in January), and Seven Fishes (to open in March). (Eater)
What else I’m reading: Links to browse at your leisure (but you should really read the avocado story!)
An unusually tall avocado tree in San Francisco is bearing free fruit in more ways than one (Chronicle)
Popularized in Barcelona, San Francisco's 'bike bus' makes its way through car-free JFK (SFGATE)
San Francisco confronts a crime wave unusual among U.S. cities (LA Times)
What’s up with Frank Somerville? (Broke-Ass Stuart)
And finally… (The story I meant to lead with)
Last month, I came across an Instagram post that caught my attention. It seemed so simple and yet, so needed. The Mission District’s Uptown bar, located on the corner of 17th and Capp Street, was starting…a chess club!
Uptown’s co-owner Shae Green told me recently that she had only been playing chess for a few months before the initial Covid lockdowns happened in early 2020, which meant much of her formative learning happened over online games. When restrictions loosened, Green said she attended in-person chess meet-ups in Bernal Heights and found herself “shocked and disoriented.”
“It was so different playing over the board!” she said.
Now, at Uptown, Green wants to “provide an opportunity for players of all levels to play in real life,” she said.
The Uptown Chess Club will meet every first Wednesday of the month from 6 pm to 8 pm, which means tomorrow, it’s game on.
As for Covid precautions, Green said her bar requires proof of vaccination and encourages patrons to keep their masks on unless actively drinking. She also said Updown “keep[s] the door open for ventilation and [has] several fans circulating the air.”
All levels are welcome, Green said, though you must be 21 years or older to attend. And, if you have a board, bring it!
That’s all for today! Thanks so much for reading y’all and we’ll see you back here tomorrow. - Nick B.