As the number of cases of the novel coronavirus in San Francisco rose to 70 on Thursday, city leaders made several announcements, including the hiring of dozens more nurses and the relocation of the city's Emergency Operations Center.
As part of expanded operations, the EOC has moved to the Moscone Center South convention center at 474 Howard St. in order to accommodate increased staff and to practice social distancing as the department works to support essential city services that need to remain open.
Mayor London Breed toured the site along with other city officials Thursday morning. Speaking at a news conference afterward, Breed cautioned residents to continue remaining at home as much as possible on the third day of a shelter-in-place order issued for the city and five other neighboring counties in response to the pandemic.
"We understand that this is, of course, quite challenging for so many people but this is not a vacation; this is not time for social gatherings. We want to discourage the gathering of large groups as much as possible," Breed said.
"Shelter in place means that you and your family members and the people in your household are the only members in that household. So we are discouraging playdates and dinner parties, and other things that you would maybe typically do in your homes but this about slowing down the spread of coronavirus," she said.
Mary Ellen Carroll, executive director of the city's Department of Emergency Management, which manages the EOC, said, "We are now at our highest level possible. We have dedicated so many San Francisco government employees to this effort, that we have had to relocate here to Moscone Convention Center South."
She added, "We will keep the work here going everyday until we get to the end of this pandemic."
Department of Public Health Director Grant Colfax said that in response to COVID-19, on Wednesday the city issued a public health order to prohibit routine procedures and elective surgeries citywide.
"These things can wait and they must wait. Now, we are decompressing the health system as much as possible. I remind everyone, please do not go to the emergency room or urgent care center unless you have a true life-threatening emergency. Contact your health provider by phone," he said.
Colfax also said, just two days after Mayor Breed announced the city would hire more nurses, that the city has already hired 70 nurses. He expected the city would also hire more nurses on-the-spot at an invite-only job fair happening this weekend.
Department of Human Services Agency Executive Director Trent Rhorer said his department has been working to help quarantine the homeless and people who live in single-room occupancy hotel rooms.
Rhorer said the department recently secured a lease to quarantine residents who tested positive for COVID-19 but don't require hospitalization at a local hotel and moved four So far, he said, the department has identified 500 hotel rooms that can be used to quarantine people who otherwise can't, in addition to the rooms included in the recently secured lease. Other hotels have offered as many as 2,000 rooms total that can be used, and the next phase involves the department assessing the suitability of those rooms for quarantine.
Additionally, the department is also working on providing housing or hotel rooms for first responders, in order to prevent them going home and infecting their families, Rhorer said.
He added that in order to exercise social distancing for the approximate 2,000 people currently being housed within the city's homeless shelters, the city will be creating "pop-up" shelters throughout the city to help accommodate with space.
Police Chief Bill Scott said amid the shelter-in-place order, residents by far have been complying. He said officers would continue patrols but are not looking to enforce the order, unless absolutely necessary.
"We want people to voluntarily comply with the law," Scott said.
"We hope that that continues. We understand that there are people out there whose lives have been disrupted so we will have some compassion and patience how we approach this."
The chief added that officers are protecting themselves from the virus with personal protective equipment and keeping a safe distance from others.
For more updates from the city, residents can visit www.sfdph.org, call 311, or sign up for the city's text alert service by texting COVID19SF to 888-777.