SAN FRANCISCO (CBS SF) — San Francisco Mayor London Breed announced Wednesday expanded access to mental health services for first responders and all health care workers as the city grapples with the novel coronavirus pandemic.
During a briefing from the city’s Emergency Operations Center, Breed said with 676 cases now confirmed in the city, including 10 deaths, the mental health of first responders, city employees and health care workers needed to be acknowledged.
“Our first responders are folks who we want to make sure are taken care of,” she said. “We know that they are working long hours and they are under an enormous amount of stress and what I’ve reiterated time and time again to people who are out there especially on the front lines working for the city, it is important that we’re doing everything we can to take care of the public, but we have to make sure we take care of ourselves.”
Through a partnership with mobile phone wellness app Cordico, city first responders, as well as all city employees, will be able to access expanded mental health resources like one-on-one employee counseling services and 24/7 mental health care for all city employees.
Those needing long-term mental health counseling will be connected to professionals provided through their health care plans, according to city officials.
In addition, the Heal San Francisco program will offer short-term mental health and counseling services for all health workers, including those working for private and nonprofit health care providers. The program involves some 375 licensed clinicians who have volunteered to help frontline health care staff deal with trauma and stress.
More information about the program can be found online at a new website.
Breed also announced the city was making progress in increasing hospital beds, with the city currently having a total of 530 intensive care unit beds and 1,608 acute care beds.
For those who may need health care but don’t need to be hospitalized, Breed reminded residents of the new temporary field care facility at the Southeast Health Center, which opened Tuesday and is located in the city’s Bayview District.
The new facility provides COVID-19 screening, primary care and urgent care for residents and Breed said she hopes to open up to three more in the city.
“Field care clinics will help reduce the number of patients needing to go to the hospital, urgent care and emergency rooms, which will help keep our hospitals focused on COVID-19 patients that we know all need tobe served,” she said.
The city’s Health Director Dr. Grant Colfax said he expected the number of cases in the city to continue increasing as the city expands COVID-19 testing. To date, nearly 6,000 San Franciscans have been tested for the virus, he said.
“So far, the numbers (of positive cases) continue to go up, but they haven’t been rising at a rate faster than we can handle,” he said.
At Laguna Honda Hospital, the city’s long term care facility, Colfax confirmed a total of 17 cases there, which included 13 staff and 4 residents. He said the 4 residents who tested positive and all live in the same area of the hospital, and on Monday, all residents there were retested.
Retesting for COVID-19 for Laguna Honda staff remains ongoing, he said.
Colfax encouraged the family of staff and residents to call (415) 759-2190, where a prerecorded message will provide daily updates, like the number of cases and the units under quarantine. The message will be updated daily at noon, he said.
Trent Rhorer, executive director of the city’s Human Services Agency, said confirmed the number of cases among homeless people is at four, with three cases at the city’s Multi-Service Center South shelter and one at the Division Circle Navigation Center.
Rhorer reiterated that city’s new announcement Monday that, in light of the cases at shelters, the city will not move forward with expanding congregate settings like shelters for homeless people, and instead will be moving some homeless people into hotel rooms.
Those moving into rooms included people who either have tested positive for COVID-19 and may have been exposed to the virus but either are homeless or live in single-room occupancy hotels, and as a result, can’t self-isolate.
Additionally, homeless people who are over 60 who or have underlying health conditions, regardless if they’re living in shelters or on the streets, will receive hotel rooms in addition to first responders who need to quarantine or self-isolate.
So far, Rhorer said, the city has acquired 1,977 hotel rooms and plans to provide 880 to first responders, and the remaining 1,097 will be provided to the homeless people who meet the guidelines.
As of Wednesday, 184 homeless people have been moved into rooms, as well as 67 first responders.
Under the new plan, the city needs to acquire a total of 7,000 hotel rooms. The total cost of leasing that many hotel rooms for about three months could cost the city as much as $105 million, Rhorer said.
The figure included the cost for staff and supplies. The U.S. Federal Emergency Management Agency could reimburse up to 75 percent of the cost, but only for those who are recovering from COVID-19, have underlying health conditions or those who are 65 or older.
Additionally, a portion of $150 million in funding provided to California counties for protecting homeless people during the health emergency by Gov. Gavin Newsom could also be used to cover the cost, Rhorer said.
During the briefing, Mayor Breed addressed an emergency ordinance introduced Tuesday by Supervisors Shamann Walton, Matt Haney, Hillary Ronen, and Dean Preston, which would require the city to secure at least 8,250 private rooms for all homeless, regardless of their age and whether they’re in shelters or on the streets to protect them from COVID-19.
Breed said while the plan to house some homeless people has changed within the last week, she maintained that housing all homeless San Franciscans during a public health emergency is complicated.
“The thing I would want to do more than anyone else is to be able to house every single person who is on the street to make sure they have a safe place to be. But the fact is that comes with so much more than opening the doors and giving people a hotel room,” she said.
Breed said things like providing staffing, 24-hour care, and services like cleaning and food remains an issue.
“That takes a lot of people who are our workforce and the reality that we’re in is that some of those people are afraid. They’re afraid to come to work,” she said.
Regarding the annual San Francisco Pride Parade, held in June, Breed appeared doubtful the celebration could continue.
“I think it may not be possible to expect that we can launch a large-scale event with millions of people descending on San Francisco. I’m not sure if that will be realistic to expect that we can host the kind of pride parade that this city is known for,” she said.