San Francisco orders America’s toughest lockdown to fight COVID surge

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Later, she tweeted that the city was “on pace to run out of hospital beds to care for patients the day after Christmas”.

California Governor Gavin Newsom, also a Democrat, said on Thursday he would impose similar stay-at-home orders statewide, to take effect region by region as intensive care beds reach capacity.

Breed said she was unwilling to wait for Newsom’s mandate to take effect in the Bay Area, adding: “If you’re not working to stay ahead of this virus you’re falling far, far behind and very quickly.”

Starting at 10 p.m. this Sunday, San Francisco will close all outdoor dining (Indoor dining was already banned), outdoor playgrounds, zoos and aquariums along with other measures, according to a statement on the mayor’s website.

“Low contact retail such as pet grooming, electronics or shoe repair services, may only operate in a curbside drop-off context,” the statement read. “All other retail, including grocery stores must reduce capacity to 20 per cent.”

Both Newsom and Breed have been criticised after dining on separate nights in November at the same posh Napa County restaurant, the French Laundry, despite repeatedly admonishing Californians to avoid such outings.

Of the 20 most populous cities in the US, San Francisco has the lowest death rate per capita from COVID-19. The first big city in the US to order a lockdown back on March 17, it has always been cautious about reopening. But a combination of compliance fatigue and an influx of travellers from the rest of the state and nation has been blamed for the recent surge.

More than 213,830 new American cases and 2,861 deaths were reported on Thursday, according to a Reuters tally of official data. With US COVID-19 hospitalisations also at record levels, some experts project the death toll could soon surpass 3,000 per day.

The University of Washington’s Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation now projects nearly 539,000 COVID-19 deaths by April 1, almost double the current death toll, even as vaccines start to become available.

The two medications could soon receive emergency use authorisation from the US Food and Drug Administration, clearing the way for the inoculation of some 20 million Americans by the end of the year, FDA Commissioner Stephen Hahn told Reuters.

“I will be first in line and I will encourage my family to take this vaccine,” Hahn said.

The US government’s first shipment of a vaccine will be shared among states and federal agencies, including the Department of Defence.

“For the time being, and the foreseeable future, the demand for vaccines is going to exceed the supply by a lot, even for the highest priority groups that are identified,” said Josh Michaud, the Kaiser Family Foundation’s associate director of global health policy.

President-elect Joe Biden has said that upon taking office on January 20 he would make masks compulsory where he has authority, such as federal buildings and for interstate travel.

“On the first day I’m inaugurated … I’m going to ask the public for 100 days to mask, just 100 days to mask, not forever, 100 days,” Biden told CNN in an interview on Thursday.

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Biden also told CNN he would get vaccinated publicly, as former presidents Bill Clinton, George W. Bush and Barack Obama have pledged, in order to boost public confidence in the medications.

The latest University of Washington projection showed that if mask-wearing increased to 95 per cent, combined with the expected vaccine rollout, approximately 66,000 lives could be saved, compared to a vaccine rollout scenario with current mask-wearing levels remaining the same.

“Even with a vaccine, if states do not act to bring current surges under control, the death toll could reach 770,000 by April 1,” the university said in a press statement.

Reuters

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