San Francisco is in a state of emergency as confirmed coronavirus cases hit 18. Here's everything we know, and the steps the city is taking to address the outbreak.


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  • The coronavirus disease has upended plans and changed the way people and companies behave in San Francisco.
  • San Francisco declared a state of emergency in February, banned large gatherings exceeding 1,000 people, and has placed handwashing stations around the city to promote good hygiene practices.
  • There are now 18 confirmed cases of the virus in the city. 
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

San Francisco now has 18 confirmed cases of the coronavirus disease, known as COVID-19, as the respiratory illness continues to spread across the country and the world.

The World Health Organization has officially declared the virus a pandemic as it has infected more than 1,800 in the US, with a reported 41 deaths. Four of the deaths were reported in California.

Here are the ways the virus is affecting the city of San Francisco and the people and tech companies who live and work there.

SEE ALSO: The wealthiest of Silicon Valley have become super doomsday preppers by buying remote New Zealand properties, getting eye surgeries, and stockpiling ammo and food

San Francisco was one of the first US cities to declare a state of emergency on February 25.

San Francisco Mayor London Breed declared a state of emergency in the city, saying that “the global picture is changing rapidly, and we need to step up preparedness.” 

“We see the virus spreading in new parts of the world every day, and we are taking the necessary steps to protect San Franciscans from harm,” she said. 

The mayor’s state of emergency allows the city to expedite and prioritize emergency planning by redirecting employees and resources in the case of an outbreak in San Francisco, Business Insider’s Avery Hartmans and Katie Canales reported. 

San Francisco is geographically one of the closest cities in the US to China, and the high amount of travel between the city and China was a factor in the decision. 

About 150 passengers that were aboard the Diamond Princess cruise ship were brought from Japan to the Travis Air Force base in Fairfield, California, about 55 miles outside of the Bay Area on February 16. They were quarantined at the base for 14 days and released on March 2.

Another coronavirus-stricken cruise ship, the Grand Princess, docked in Oakland across the bay from San Francisco on Monday with 2,422 passengers on board, 942 of which are California residents. Twenty-one of the ship’s passengers have tested positive for the virus. Sick passengers were taken to local hospitals and the rest will undergo a 14-day quarantine at US military bases, with some going to Travis Air Force Base.

‘No Handshakes Please’

The venture-capital firm Andreessen Horowitz began taking precautions as the disease started to spread, seemingly asking visitors to its San Francisco offices not to shake hands.

The technology researcher Tim Hwang posted on Twitter a photo taken outside the firm’s offices showing a sign that said: “Due to the Corona Virus, No Handshakes Please. Thank You.” 

Tweet Embed:

no handshakes please

thank you

The firm did not respond to Business Insider’s request for comment, but Marc Andreessen posted a PSA on Twitter about the risks of handshaking as the virus spreads. 

Tweet Embed:

no handshakes please

thank you


Major tech conferences in San Francisco and elsewhere have been canceled in an effort to avoid large gatherings amid the virus outbreak.

Facebook was planning to host its Global Marketing Summit in San Francisco from March 9 to 12 but canceled the event because of the coronavirus.

“Out of an abundance of caution, we canceled our Global Marketing Summit due to evolving public health risks related to coronavirus,” Anthony Harrison, a Facebook spokesman, said. 

Many more have followed suit. Google Cloud Next, Okta’s Oktane, and IBM’s Think were all scheduled to take place at San Francisco’s Moscone Center. They have since been canceled or turned into digital events, with live-streamed content planned.

Verizon, AT&T, and IBM pulled out of the RSA Conference, one of the biggest cybersecurity conferences. The companies were among 14 event sponsors to leave the event because of the coronavirus.

Source: Business Insider

The economic impact of the cancellations is likely to be big.

The Facebook event typically brings in about 5,000 guests, and San Francisco estimated that visitors to the city for conferences each spend about $567 per day.

A Recode report placed the economic loss of all canceled tech events worldwide at $1 billion, much of which is felt in San Francisco as many conferences are held in the city.


Tech companies have restricted travel for employees.

Tech giants like Apple, Amazon, Facebook, Salesforce, and Google, which have a heavy presence in San Francisco, have restricted employee travel as the virus spreads around the world. 

Remote work culture is also taking hold in San Francisco as companies ask or mandate that employees work from home amid the outbreak.

The CDC issued new guidelines in late February advising businesses to rely more heavily on remote work options, a feat that Google, Twitter, Apple, and others are following.

It’s an adjustment for many tech workers who have long relied upon in-office perks, like free lunches.


Many in San Francisco, as well as elsewhere around the world, are practicing “social distancing” to help contain the disease as much as possible.

Source: Business Insider

The city has implemented measures to prevent mass gatherings.

City leaders banned non-essential events held in city-owned facilities for two weeks starting on March 7.

A “non-essential group event” is defined as a gathering of 50 people for social, cultural, or entertainment events “where people are not separated by physical space of at least four feet,” or about arm’s length, according to NBC Bay Area.

The facilities implicated by the order include City Hall, the San Francisco Public Library, the Palace of Fine Arts Theatre, and Moscone Center, a venue in the city’s SOMA district where many tech conferences are usually held. The city’s upcoming St. Patrick’s Day Parade has been postponed as well.

Symphony events and ballet performances are among the types of events being canceled.

While events are being canceled, these venues are still allowed to remain open.

Then on Wednesday, San Francisco banned all large private and public gatherings exceeding 1,000 people.

“This is necessary to slow the spread of COVID-19, and builds on our previous public health recommendations,” Mayor Breed wrote on Twitter.

The ban includes events such as Golden State Warriors games.

The ban can be renewed by the city Health Officer. The city had previously recommended that large private events be postponed or canceled, but with this new order, organizers will be required to cancel them. It doesn’t, however, address how issues such as schools in the city will respond to the outbreak, though 90 Bay Area Catholic schools were just closed until March 25 after one student tested positive for the virus.

Steps have also been taken to protect San Francisco’s most vulnerable residents that comprise its homeless population.




The city announced March 9 that it was spending $5 million to hire cleaning crews to regularly sanitize homeless shelters, supportive housing buildings, and SROs daily.

The money will also be used to keep shelters, including Navigation Centers, open 24/7. 

Meal offerings will also be made more available at shelters and SROs to encourage occupants to stay indoors. The funding will allow the city to keep up with the daily cleaning and the around-the-clock shelter hours for a few months, according to the San Francisco Chronicle.

The city also will use RVs stationed throughout the city to house members of its homeless population who are infected with the coronavirus for self-quarantine.

According to KTVU, the office of Mayor London Breed announced the plan Tuesday. It will apply to people who’ve tested positive for COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus, who have been exposed to it but don’t need hospitalization and who aren’t able to self-isolate in shared spaces like homeless shelters, SROs, or on the street.

The RVs will be staged in the city’s Presidio neighborhood and can be placed throughout the city “as needed.” The city is also asking hotels if there are any vacant rooms for it to use as part of this plan, according to KTVU.

Those living on the streets are more at risk of contracting infectious diseases such as the coronavirus, in San Francisco and in other US cities. A 2019 count placed the number of homeless individuals in the city at 8,011. 

Many don’t have the luxury of taking the recommended precautions to avoid contracting COVID-19, like handwashing and keeping a distance from sick people, as Business Insider’s Holly Secon reported. 

To further promote good hygiene practices for residents, city leaders placed 20 handwashing stations around the city.

The best way to fight the spread of the coronavirus disease, as health officials have repeatedly said, is to wash your hands.

Per recommendations by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, take a generous amount of soap, and scrub thoroughly while reciting the “Happy Birthday” song or another 20-second tune.

The stations include soap dispensers and two basins with foot pumps that turn the water on.

When Business Insider stopped by on Thursday, a man was using the station to first wash a piece of clothing and then to wash his hands.

The accessibility to soap and water is a much-needed feat for those living on the streets in the city.

San Francisco pressed for legislation that would prevent the eviction of tenants “who cannot pay rent if they lose income as a result of their compliance with recommendations of [the Department of] Public Health.”

And just days later, one of San Francisco’s largest property owners wrote to residents in an email that it would halt evictions for tenants facing financial hardship related to the coronavirus disease outbreak.

GreenTree Property Management, a subsidiary of Veritas Investments, advised its tenants to contact the Resident Services team if they were unable to pay their rent on time. Tenants will be asked to provide “reasonable documentation” proving that the financial disruptions were brought on by the coronavirus disease.

“As the spread of COVID-19 reaches our community, we at GreenTree Property Management want you to feel confident that your housing is secure as we confront the economic and health impacts from this outbreak,” the company wrote in the email.

The notice also advised all residents to sign up for online payments if they haven’t already in an effort to practice social distancing to help prevent the spread of the disease. GreenTree operates 6,000 residential units across 285 properties, all rent-controlled, according to SF Weekly.

BART will be kept up and running, with hand sanitizer pumps set up in each of the 48 stations.

Riders of the Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) system began raising their concerns about cleanliness on public transit in February. Residents told local outlet KRON4 that they and their families were fearful of riding on the trains and contracting the virus from the crowds of people riding on them. 

One rider told the news outlet that she thought the transit authority could sanitize the trains, but speculated the cost could be high.

“I’m not really sure what they can do, I mean, unless they’re gonna pay to have people go through the cars every night, try to sanitize them, which would probably be a good idea,” she told KRON4. “But I don’t know what cost that would be to the city. But it would certainly be helpful.” 

Source: Curbed SF

Despite the extra hand sanitizer deployed at its BART stations, the transit agency is mulling over an emergency plan that could involve reducing service or shutting trains down.

As The San Francisco Chronicle reported, that would only be a last resort for the transit system in the event that several operators fell ill or California Gov. Gavin Newsom ordered transit agencies to cease operations.

“We are an essential service,” agency spokesperson Jim Allison told the Chronicle. “We know that many people can’t work from home and that they have no other choice than to use public transportation.”

Drive-through coronavirus testing has been set up at a medical center in San Francisco.

The sites are designed to keep patients with respiratory symptoms away from medical facilities where they could potentially pass the virus on to others. Patients with doctor’s orders can drive up and provide samples swabbed from the throat or nose onsite, according to a San Francisco Chronicle report.

The drive-through test sites are run by Kaiser Permanente, the largest healthcare provider in the Bay Area. 


The virus is affecting stores, supply chains, and stock prices

The virus is affecting tech companies’ revenue forecasts, production plans, and retail stores. 

Apple said its revenue would dip because of the coronavirus outbreak. It said store closures — the company closed its stores in China and reopened some of them — could affect revenue. 

It also said the production of iPhones in China would be slower because of the outbreak. 

After the US said that Americans should prepare for a “significant” disruption to everyday life and a World Health Organization official said the world was “not ready” for an outbreak, markets around the world took a hit — including tech companies.