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San Francisco federal employees instructed to work remotely

While many Silicon Valley companies are taking tough measures to return their employees to the office, the U.S. Department of Health is urging workers in San Francisco to stay home indefinitely.

The San Francisco Chronicle reports that the stay-at-home recommendation was issued on August 4 because of concerns about the safety of workers at the Nancy Pelosi Federal Building downtown, an area that has become a popular hangout for drug dealers and users.

“Given the conditions at [federal building]we recommend that employees … maximize the use of telework to the extent possible for the foreseeable future,” Cheryl R. Campbell, HHS deputy secretary for administration, wrote in a memo.

It's unclear whether other federal departments in the building have given their employees similar instructions. The memo was issued the same day the White House called for more employees to return to their desks in the coming weeks.

Around the same time the memo was sent, Rep. Nancy Pelosi herself met with the U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of California to express her concerns about the safety of workers in the building. (Pelosi's staff has not been advised to work from home, the Chronicle reported.)

The federal building is guarded by the Federal Protective Service, which works with the San Francisco Police Department. Still, the area is teeming with dealers, and drug users congregate on the concrete benches lining the property (and consume the product they buy).

San Francisco's downtown/central business district is more depressed than almost any other post-pandemic area — and some economists fear it's at the beginning of a “vicious spiral” in which empty office buildings and crime lead to more absenteeism and higher crime rates. Uniqlo, Nordstrom Rack and Anthropologie have all closed their branches, and many local stores have shuttered. And crime is up. Shampoo, toothpaste and other toiletries are locked away at downtown pharmacies. And armed robbers recently raided a Gucci store in broad daylight.

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