You couldn’t make this up this shit if you tried: less than 24 hours after it was first reported that Mayor London Breed was partying in public without a mask (again), the city she governs had the unfortunate distinction of finding the first confirmed US case of the new Omicron COVID variant.
Even though COVID’s already killed millions, Omicron is still concerning: its symptoms present mildly; it spreads unusually fast; and no one knows for sure how effective current vaccines and boosters are against it. In short, it’s a bigger concern than Delta, which cost us the “hot vax summer” we were promised. The only thing sadder than a new COVID variant hitting this close to home is the fact that Breed has refused to implement any new restrictions to help quell its spread in its infancy.
But then, why should we be surprised? For the past year, Breed’s business-first response to COVID has been so jaw-droppingly bad that she might as well just admit that she doesn’t care if non-rich San Franciscans die. This isn’t the first time I’ve written about her carelessness, and I imagine it won’t be the last.
Hell, it’s not even the only callous action she’s done recently. In the past month, she’s tried to subvert affordable housing in The City and nixed a homeless youth center shortly before its scheduled opening. What’s more, the mandates she openly ignores and mocks are already too lax, with no required temp-checks and easily-Photoshopped pix of vax cards enough to allow one into a venue. She’s exacerbating the very problems (and in the case of COVID, danger) that she herself should be trying to quell.
Now, I get that Breed, being heir apparent to fellow business-lover Ed Lee, is concerned about nightlife and tourist money returning to SF as soon as possible. I know that because I’ve spent the entire damn pandemic writing about the devastation it’s wrought upon SF nightlight and entertainment. I’ve written about everything from landmark nightclubs struggling to stay afloat to live theatres having their re-openings railroaded by Delta. I’ve watched or participated in countless Zoom events, I’ve walked out of theatres that don’t enforce masking or distancing, and I’ve reviewed mandate-shunning events like the unauthorized Banksy art installation. I’ve also had to interview good friends and business-owners who got breakthrough COVID.
So, I know from whence I speak when I say that London Breed’s shenanigans – and her open disdain for the very safety regulations that would keep us safe – are not what will rejuvenate SF nightlife. In fact, they may get us all killed.
Breed’s actions and her emphasis on financial outcome over public safety reeks of “Let them eat cake”-level condescension. The difference, of course, is that Marie Antoinette may or may not have actually said that phrase. London Breed, on the other hand, really did mock The City’s COVID safety regulations at the opening of Dear San Francisco (I know because I was there); she really did refer to those enforcing regulations – her employees, mind you – as “the fun police”; and she really did respond to her latest maskless video backlash with the brush-off quote “I was drinking and having fun”.
Because that’s what’s important, right, London? Like you, I’m one of the few SF-born Black people still in The City’s vicinity, so we can talk real with one another. Countless San Franciscans have lost their jobs and homes, hundreds of businesses have shut their doors, we still haven’t reached a level of vaccination to create herd immunity, and the person who’s supposed to bring some level of order and consistency to all of it (that’s you) is the very one who thumbs their nose at the very mandates she put into place.
But you were “drinking and having fun”. Yeah, you do you, gurl.
Here’s the kicker: she could have salvaged a thin sliver of dignity in this situation if she’d taken the opportunity at the Omicron press conference to introduce stronger new measures. She could have made temp-checks mandatory. She could have insisted vaccine checks include either the physical card shown in-person (with the final dose date being no less than two weeks ago) or the QR code which venues would have to actually scan for verification, not just look at. She could have required that restaurants, bars, and the like always operate at reduced indoor capacity (unless they’re outside, in which case owners may want to experiment with barriers between parklet tables). She could have demanded that all indoor venues (theatres, etc.) not only do all the above, but also base their capacity on the ability to “checkerboard” seating, giving a patron space in front, behind, and to their sides.
Let me put it this way: if Breed had shown the same resolve for crushing COVID that she’s shown for arresting Black kids running off with overpriced handbags, then I guarantee you that the first US case of Omicron would have been nowhere near SF. Instead, we have cops all over Union Square and our country’s first case of “Nu-COVID”. But that’s where Breed’s priorities are: she’s more interested in name brands than community wellness; she favors low-tax-paying conglomerates over the homeless; she’s interested in feeding the very rich we should be eating.
I’m trying to be optimistic when I hear the WHO and CDC say “Don’t Panic!” about the mere presence of Omicron, but the Douglas Adams fan in me knows that the phrase means that something worth panicking about has already begun – and that you should always carry a towel. Being fully-vaxxed and boosted, I’ll definitely err on the side of scientific efficacy, but not panicking will be tough when SF’s own leader is openly dismissive of our concerns.
London Breed wants San Francisco to be the big commerce hub of the west coast again. To quote a recent Pandemic Round-Up by fellow SF native Violet Blue, “San Francisco is not, and will never be, the city you remember.” It’s clear that Mayor Breed wants to make SF great again, she just limits “greatness” to those who can afford it.
Categories: Long-Form Essays