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San Francisco curbs virus but once-vibrant downtown is empty

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Copyright 2020 The Associated Press. All rights reserved

With the Golden Gate Bridge in the background, walkers wear masks while strolling at Crissy Field East Beach in San Francisco on Thursday, Oct. 22, 2020. As the coronavirus pandemic transforms San Francisco's workplace, legions of tech workers have left, able to work remotely from anywhere. Families have fled for roomy suburban homes with backyards. The exodus has pushed rents in the prohibitively expensive city to their lowest in years. (AP Photo/Noah Berger)

SAN FRANCISCO – Before the pandemic, Señor Sisig food trucks were a common sight in downtown San Francisco, dishing out Filipino fusion tacos and burritos to long lines of workers who spilled out of office towers at lunch.

The trucks now are gone, forced into the suburbs because there’s practically no one around to feed in the city's center.

As the coronavirus pandemic transforms San Francisco's workplace, legions of tech workers have left, able to work remotely from anywhere. Families have fled for roomy suburban homes with backyards. The exodus has pushed rents in the prohibitively expensive city to their lowest in years. Tourists are scarce, and the famed cable cars sit idle.

The food trucks, like many other businesses, are wondering when things will bounce back.

“Is it ever going to get back to normal, is it ever going to be as busy as it was — and will that be next year, or in 10 years?” said Evan Kidera, CEO of Señor Sisig.

On Tuesday, more of San Francisco reopened for business after Mayor London Breed proudly declared last week that the city's low virus case numbers allowed it to move into California’s most permissive reopening tier. That means more people can go back to the office, eat indoors at restaurants, visit museums and soon even enjoy a beer or cocktail — outdoors — at a bona fide drinks-only bar.

It is the only urban county in the state to hit this tier, joining a handful of sparsely populated rural ones.

In March, counties in the Bay Area jointly ordered their residents to stay at home, becoming the first region in the country to do so. And San Francisco itself was even slower than its neighbors to reopen restaurants, gyms and salons.