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Coronavirus: Scenes from an eerily empty San Francisco

The COVID-19 lockdown shuts down yet another otherwise bustling city.

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James Martin

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1 of 42 James Martin/CNET

The coronavirus pandemic has taken a grim toll around the world -- more than 250,000 cases and 10,000 deaths as of Friday -- and the numbers continue to rise daily.

On Thursday, California Gov. Gavin Newsom ordered all Californians to stay home, two days after six of the state's counties went on lockdown. Other cities and states around the US are taking similar steps.

This is a look at how those measures have dramatically altered San Francisco. Midweek afternoons in the city typically bring heavy traffic, packed trains and lunch lines leading out the doors, but on day 2 of the shutdown, the streets are now quiet.

For a broader look at emptiness around the world, visit this gallery

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The headline on the San Francisco Examiner, copies of which are strewn across the sidewalk of Market Street, reads simply "LOCKDOWN."

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Passing under the Bay Bridge, the Embarcadero, at the edge of downtown San Francisco, is empty.

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At the entrance to the Montgomery Street BART station, there is no one to be found.

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At Embarcadero Plaza, a woman in a face masks checks her phone.

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Emptiness reigns in Union Square, a usually vibrant shopping district plaza at the center of San Francisco.

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The Apple Store in Union Square is closed until further notice.

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In the Apple Store, tables of iPhones and Apple Watches sit lonely, like the rest of the city.

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The tourism (and clam chowder) center of San Francisco, Fisherman's Wharf, was mostly empty, except for police and construction workers.

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Just outside CNET headquarters in San Francisco, 2nd Street was eerily quiet. Bikes, Ubers and the typical traffic jams -- all gone.

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The San Francisco Museum of Modern Art has posted a closed sign on its doors.

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Those restaurants that do remain open are struggling. There are just no people left downtown to shop.

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At Joe & The Juice on Market Street, the doors were open Wednesday afternoon. The staff told me they have implemented cashless payments as a safety precaution since the coronavirus shutdown began. They also said they've had only about one customer per hour.

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Signs posted on the floor at Joe & The Juice designate a "Contactless Zone."

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The mechanism for mobile digital payments stands ready at Joe & The Juice.

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Popular gourmet salad chain Mixt on Yerba Buena Lane was completely empty at lunchtime Wednesday. 

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Gloves and N95 masks have become standard fashion.

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A notice at the Corner Bakery reads, in part: "The health and safety of our guests, team members and the communities we serve continue to be our top priority." 

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Along 2nd Street, all is quiet at San Francisco's transportation hub, the Salesforce Transit Center.

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The Metreon shopping mall is closed.

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The George R. Moscone Convention Center along Howard Street is the largest convention and exhibition complex in San Francisco. It's been closed to any events.

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Shelves at grocery stores have been cleaned out of all sorts of basics. This is all that's left of the flour at one store.

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At The Melt on Market Street, there was just one customer.

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The intersection of 2nd and Mission streets is usually clogged with traffic and bikes.

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The dizzyingly steep California Street is nearly empty.

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Nearly empty shelves in Alameda, just hours before the coronavirus shelter-in-place began

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One item remained in the frozen food section at the Trader Joe's in the Nob Hill neighborhood early in the week.

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The owner of Fog City News, which carries more than a thousand foreign and domestic magazines and newspapers told me that he considers journalism an essential service and that the store is staying open.

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The Ferry Building food hall in San Francisco is typical filled with hundreds of people at all hours of the day. Now there's a handful of shoppers and dozens of shuttered businesses.

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Empty grocery store shelves in Alameda, hours before the coronavirus shelter-in-place began.

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Not everyone venturing outside is wearing masks, but these people are.

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Due to high demand, protective face masks and gloves can be difficult to find.

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Market Street sidewalks, just blocks from the financial center of San Francisco and the home offices of many California tech companies, are empty. 

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Four car lanes and a bike lane along Howard Street -- all empty.

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Popular lunchtime spot Lao Table on 2nd Street is vacant.

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Social distancing isn't a challenge on the normally crowded brick sidewalks of Market Street.

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Turn here, turn there. You can turn anywhere, really, these days. The streets are practically empty.

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Eat well and good, except not here. The shop is closed, and all the food is gone. 

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Stockton Street along Union Square on a quiet and partly cloudy day.

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The hustle and bustle of the city is gone. 

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The Brazilian consulate general's office has been closed.

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This may well sum up how we all feel about the coronavirus.

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