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SF Streets Empty As Smoky Air, Raining Ash Force COVID-Weary Residents Back Inside

SAN FRANCISCO (KPIX 5) - Just a week out from the six-month anniversary of the coronavirus lockdown and new problems are falling out of the sky in San Francisco.

"First we had to deal with the COVID and the shutdown," says Maurice Darwish, owner of the Cove On Castro. "Then all of a sudden, we've got fires and smoke. It's a very sad situation for everybody all around."

The slow-motion emergency just continues for Darwish. After closing his doors for three months, the outdoor partnership with the bar next door was just starting to work out.

"We're very pleased with it," Darwish said. "But then again, you got a hit from the left side with the fires and the ash and the air."

With empty tables, deserted parks, and very slow streets, for the second day in a row, the bad air gave the city an emptiness that felt more like the start of the shutdown.

"This is so bizarre," Alston Laughlin said in an empty Golden Gate Park Panhandle. "There's nobody here. It's kind of freaky.

"Hardly anybody on the streets walking," Pat Darden said in North Beach. "Very few cars."

Collecting over the city, like the smoke, is a sense that these problems are not drifting away any time soon. Wildfire and related problems have become a feature, not a bug. And while the pandemic will be temporary, it has compounded problems that were here before, and will here once the virus is gone.

"Between the homeless and that situation, and then this pandemic," Darden said. "They say like half the businesses have gone out of business."

"I think it's going to be here for a long, long time, and it's really going to pinch our system," Laughlin added. "It's pinching our friendships. It's very difficult to put up with it all."

"I'm convinced there's going to be a turning point," said Darwish. "We're not too far, but we're not there yet."

That is a conversation heard a lot in the city these days. Where is the bottom and what is it going to take to crawl back out?

"It's just hard to fathom how much damage will occur, Darwish said of San Francisco. "I can see how much has already occurred, but I can't tell you how much more. It's very scary."

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