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COVID-19 Economic Downturn Triggers Exodus From San Francisco

SAN FRANCISCO (CBS SF) -- Like thousands of others, William Hauser came to San Francisco to pursue his digital dreams. Then the COVID-19 pandemic began and his professional world was turned upside down.

Hauser was packing a trailer in front of his San Francisco apartment on Saturday afternoon, joining the exodus out of the city.

"Honestly, I started being a software engineer, I got into computers, because it's convenient to be able to work remotely," he said. "Now that everyone has been working remote, and policies aren't cemented at least until next year, there's no reason to stay here when I could go back to family and work remotely there."

A tech worker with a job but no office, which means yet another set of boxes and a truck. San Francisco is now crawling with moving vans. For every one a different story, and destination.

"I'm going back to my family in Ohio," Hauser said.

"For us, it's really just been about the kids," explains Brian Poger who is leaving to provide in-person learning for children. "It sounds really sexy and cool to go to Hawaii and I'm not saying it's bad. We love the city as well. Basically just to get the kids in school face to face. And for the first time in my career, I'm virtual."

At another truck-loading scene it was a family that had been considering a departure from San Francisco, but accelerated the timetable.

"One of the reasons that a lot of the things that drew us to San Francisco, we want to be close to the symphony and opera here, want to be close to Hayes Valley, all the small businesses says Hajo Schiewe. "And basically, nothing is there anymore, everything is closed."

Of course, not every departure is voluntary.

"A lot of people don't want to leave, but people are losing their jobs," said mover Ali Phelps.

Phelps has been moving people in and out of San Franciscans for about 20 years. Has he ever seen anything like this?

"No," he answers. "Not really this big boom of people just moving all at once."

Across town, another van was being loaded in the Mission.

"A lot of people are hitting the highway, getting out of town," said Paul, a teacher in the city. "But our jobs are here, and more importantly our lives are here."

Paul and Ashley were also moving Saturday, from the Mission to Bernal Heights.

"So rents took a dive here in San Francisco," Ashley explains of the move. "So with everyone working from home we had to upgrade from a studio to one bedroom so we're taking advantage of the rent."

No matter where the van was headed, everyone knew they were part of a larger move that can be seen across San Francisco.

"I feel like I'm catching either the head end or tail end of an exodus," Hauser said. "Who knows."

"Yes, but I think it's kind of temporary," Poger said. "That's my guess. Depending on what happens with vaccines, and treatments. I mean this is a cit that has rebirthed and reversed and rebirth and it always thrives. And I think it will thrive again."

No one is hoping for a faster rebirth than those that are staying.

"Because yeah, we call San Francisco home," Paul said. "And we just really hope that things get better. And we want to be a part of that."

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