Coronavirus-related hospital stays in the Bay Area continued to spike over the weekend, and the two San Francisco malls are back on lockdown barely a month after the city reopened.
The closure of the Westfield San Francisco Center and Stonestown Galleria from midnight on Sunday evening follows the state’s announcement on Friday that San Francisco has been placed on California’s watchlist for counties that are not controlling the virus. The malls were allowed to stay open over the weekend, but most of the stores in them are now limited to roadside pick-up of items ordered online.
Shops that open directly onto the street – in malls or elsewhere in the city – can stay open. Restaurants across town only offer take-away or serve them at outdoor tables.
The only county in the Bay Area that wasn’t on the watchlist as of Sunday was San Mateo County, but that is expected to change this week. Hospital stays for COVID-19 patients rose from 60 Friday to 67 Saturday – an increase that helped raise the number of patients in the Bay Area of nine counties to 679 – another sad record.
The combination of the ongoing surge in the pandemic and the cloudy weather made conditions appear as calm in much of the region as they have in more than a month.
In Oakland, the streets near the boardwalk were empty on Sunday mornings, except for joggers or people walking their dogs. In San Francisco neighborhoods where playgrounds are closed, children played hopscotch at weekends or parents took young children for walks.
There were no crowds in the northeast neighborhood of San Francisco on Sundays, even in areas where crowds lived on a typical weekend day.
There was plenty of space to walk around the Embarcadero and no waiting for outside tables in restaurants. The streets around Oracle Park were as quiet as home after a double game that killed the rally, and perhaps two dozen people were enjoying the countryside views from Roof Park on the Transbay transit center.
In Chinatown, shoppers bought groceries and produce on Stockton Street. Grant Avenue, with its souvenir shops that regularly draw visitors, was almost empty.
Westfield Mall was almost as quiet on a late Sunday afternoon as if it were already tightly locked. Mask-wearing buyers were few and far between. The most exuberant downtown activity happened around 3 p.m. when more than 50 people on motorized dirt bikes made multiple noisy loops up Market Street and through the financial district, pounding wheelies.
The resurgence of widespread health concerns is not just confined to the Bay Area.
Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti told CNN on Sunday that the city was “on the verge” of new shutdown orders due to increasing cases and hospital stays. He also admitted that the city’s reopening efforts had been “too fast” over the past six weeks.
Last week Garcetti said he would not hesitate to close all but essential stores. Those comments came days after California Governor Gavin Newsom shut down bars and restaurants nationwide and ordered hair salons, gyms, shopping malls and other indoor businesses to close in Los Angeles and other counties where the virus had hit the most.
Los Angeles County reported a record number of COVID-19 patients in its hospitals last week, and the total number of positive tests rose from 8% to nearly 10%.
The mayor attributed the increase in prevalence not only to the reopening, but also to people being less vigilant about following public health guidelines and meeting with others outside of their households.
“It’s not just what’s open and closed,” he said. “It’s also about what we do individually.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.