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COVID: Omicron-Fueled Surge Leading to Bay Area Business Closures, Event Cancellations

SAN FRANCISCO (CBS SF) -- With Christmas in the rearview mirror and New Year's Eve approaching, COVID cases in the Bay Area are soaring and so are concerns over the highly infectious omicron variant.

The rising number of cases has led some San Francisco businesses to temporarily clos and venues to cancel events including lucrative New Year's Eve celebrations, hearkening back to the dark days of 2020.

UPDATE: San Francisco New Year's Eve Fireworks Show Canceled Over COVID Surge

Moby Dick, one of the oldest gay bars in San Francisco's Castro District, has announced it will close its doors until January 1st.

The omicron variant and current rise in COVID cases present a risk these business owners do not want to take, even during an important holiday week.

"It's just a crazy time at New Year's and Christmas," said Moby Dick owner Scot Riffe. "It's just impossible that people won't be hugging and kissing and at New Year's be screaming and having a blast and forgetting everything that they may need to do to be safe."

The Chapel in SF's Mission also closed down, canceling a multi-night residency by popular garage-rock hero Ty Segall that was scheduled to conclude with a New Year's Eve concert. The venue's next scheduled show is January 8th.

The New Parkway Theater in Oakland is also cancelling shows on Friday.

"For the same reasons that we closed back in March 2020," said New Parkway Marketing Manager Carlos Courtade. "We thought it was the responsible thing to do again."

Other Bay Area venues that have put a pause on live events include Eli's Mile High Club and the New Parish in Oakland. A growing list of bars and clubs across the region are also closing, either due to omicron worries or, in some cases, staffing shortages due to workers getting sick from COVID.

While these decisions are a precaution, in some cases businesses weren't sure they would get customers to come out anyway. Many are already doing a fraction of the sales they saw before the pandemic.

Others were going to be short staffed anyway due to workers out with COVID, so their employees are glad to stay home.

For the San Francisco Chamber Orchestra, their New Year's Eve concerts are a tradition going back 50 years. For the second year in a row, they are being forced to cancel those performances because of COVID-19.

However, other major events are proceeding as scheduled. Concert promoter Another Planet Entertainment is hosting a residency by Bay Area electronic artist Tycho at the Independent and a much larger event with popular Chicago house DJ Kaskade at the Bill Graham Civic Center. All of Another Planet Entertainment's events require both proof of vaccination and masking.

The San Francisco Department of Public Health found the number of new COVID-19 cases in San Francisco hit a record daily high of 794 on December 21st. While that number isn't official yet, it would be the highest single day total in San Francisco since the start of the pandemic.

Thankfully it seems like the people who are catching COVID from the omicron variant are suffering from less severe effects. Doctors say the vaccines and boosters are protecting people, even as cases go up among the vaccinated and unvaccinated.

"I think on the surface it looks really scary like a horror movie, But in reality, our hospitals in the Bay Area are still doing well," said UCSF infectious disease expert Dr. Peter Chin-Hong. "My biggest anxiety in the Bay Area is not necessarily overrunning the intensive care units and not having enough ventilators like in the old days. But it's rather about the disruption to the way of life."

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