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For the mayor of the first major U.S. city to impose a lockdown to curb the spread of Covid-19, President Donald Trump’s positive test results serve as a “wake up call” as she faces increasing pressure to reopen.
London Breed ordered residents in San Francisco to shelter-in-place in mid-March, days before a similar move was imposed across California. The result: San Francisco County, with more than 2% of the Golden State’s population, accounted for less than 1% of its deaths. Looking at other cities and states that have reopened, residents and businesses are pushing her to ease up at a faster pace.
“What it shows people is that no one is immune,” Breed said in a Bloomberg Television interview Friday as the president was flown to a military hospital for treatment. “This is a wake up call for so many people who are refusing to wear masks and who are moving forward with their lives as if nothing is wrong, as if we’re not still in a pandemic. This should be an example for sure.”
On Tuesday, San Francisco moved into California’s orange or “moderate” tier in the state’s four-color blueprint for Covid-19 recovery. The move allowed restaurants and places of worship to reopen, operating at 25% capacity, up to 100 people.
San Francisco’s March 16 order — imposed with other parts of the Bay Area — was considered one of the most restrictive in the state and seen as a precursor for what was to come across major U.S. cities.
San Francisco’s Shelter-in-Place Order Shows U.S. What’s to Come
There are also consequences to Breed’s early lockdown. The city expects a budget shortfall of $3.6 billion over the next four years, she said in May, and that’s a number that is only expected to grow if the pandemic continues into 2021.
Businesses are feeling the sting of a more than six-month long closure. A month ago, industry group Golden Gate Restaurant Association said the city’s decision then to delay the reopening of indoor dining “caused everyone a lot of stress and disappointment.” A few weeks later, she received a letter from the Justice Department saying that the policy of only allowing just one person in places of worship — regardless of size — contradicts the constitution and the country’s tradition of religious freedom.
Breed says she’s “very concerned” about the economic impact. More than 200,000 people have filed for unemployment in the city, and longtime businesses — some she’s known since she was child — have closed permanently.
“We’re tired of Covid, but Covid is not tired of us,” Breed said. “And it’s just not going to go away because we want it to.”
Still, Breed’s move in March was largely seen as a success, and she’s credited for making San Francisco a national model in fighting the pandemic. She says she’s not a fan of masks or even social distancing, but adds that she needs to lead by example.
“I don’t like wearing masks, but I wear them,” she said. “I want to be around people, but I understand that I could impact somebody and they can impact me. It has to be about the behavior that I model so that others can follow.”
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