San Francisco’s historic City Hall was all but shuttered Wednesday, the latest victim of the COVID-19 epidemic.
Until Tuesday night, the building had still been open for limited city business despite last week’s stay-at-home order, with official meetings being held electronically.
But that changed Tuesday night, after a sheriff’s cadet -- assigned to perform security screening at one of the doors -- tested positive for the virus. The cadet is among five sheriff’s department members confirmed as having COVID-19.
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“It’s really sad that City Hall, which is this great beautiful public building that has tens of thousands of people come through on a regular basis is now going to be closed to the public,” said city Supervisor Matt Haney in an interview outside his home on Wednesday.
Haney and other city leaders have been assured by public health officials that there’s a “low risk” that people coming into the building could have become infected just by having their belongings searched by an infected screener.
Meanwhile, a few blocks away at the city’s Hall of Justice, two members of the SFPD’s Special Victims Unit tested positive for the virus. Police Chief Bill Scott said at a press conference Wednesday that some 25 officers and two civilians are now under quarantine.
“We have sanitized that work location,” he said, “and we had already restricted some of our workforce from being in the office.”
The SVU handles sexual assault and other sensitive investigations. Scott said all the department’s investigative units are telecommuting when possible and only working in the office when absolutely essential.
The city’s Public Health Department director, Dr. Grant Colfax, emphasized at the press conference that everything possible is being done to protect police, sheriffs and firefighters.
“Our first responders are on the front lines,” Colfax said, “and it’s our priority at the Health Department to ensure that they and their leadership get all the information they need – and in the case of exposures, or positive tests, the right public health procedures are being followed based on science, data and facts.”