SAN FRANCISCO (CBS SF) — Mayor London Breed on Friday said that a homeless shelter south of Market is being converted to a medical facility after 70 people there tested positive for coronavirus.

The information came out during the Mayor’s Friday update on the city’s response to COVID-19. The outbreak happened at the shelter known as MSC South, located at 5th and Bryant streets.

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It is one of the largest shelters in San Francisco with a capacity of up to 340 residents.


Of the 70 positive cases at the shelter, 68 were among homeless individuals and an additional two cases were staff members.

As of Friday, San Francisco County was reporting 797 positive cases of coronavirus and 13 deaths.

The mayor said that the population at the facility was already being drawn down as a precaution against just such an outbreak.

“Part of acquiring hotel rooms and thinning out our shelters has truly helped in this particular case, because as of last night, there were only 103 residents in the shelter, which has provided us with the flexibilty to turn this from a shelter to actually a medical facility,” Breed said. “We are going to reroute our medical health experts, our nurses and other health support to this facility to help manage and maintain and support the people who have tested positive.”

The outbreak comes after city officials decided against having a facility for the homeless at Moscone West on Monday. The city has been placing homeless people at hotels in an effort to mitigate the spread of the coronavirus at shelters.

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“We knew that from the very, very beginning, congregate living facilities like our shelters, like Laguna Honda hospital, like our single-room occupancy hotels, we knew that those had the potential of being hot spots,” said Breed. “And so we have been preparing for that. We have been preparing for that by acquiring a number of hotel rooms, making sure that we had the supportive service necessary, making sure that we can keep the people that we are asking to work at these hotels safe.”

San Francisco Public Health officer Dr. Grant Colfax said two people from the MSC shelter tested positive on Sunday and were moved to isolation hotels.

“This new recovery center will be staffed by the Department of Public Health’s nurses and doctors. Experts who will provide care, monitor patients and arrange transport to hospitals if their conditions worsen,” said Dr. Colfax.

That was when the city’s Public Health Department began testing people in close contact at the shelter as well as those who were showing symptoms or at risk.

The test results showed a spread of the virus and on Wednesday they began testing everybody at the shelter, Colfax said. Five people tested positive on Wednesday. That number rose to 70 Friday.

Colfax said there were 71 negative test results with three more test result pending.

San Francisco Supervisor Matt Haney was one of several city officials who has been calling for a different approach to protecting the homeless population from COVID-19.

“It was inevitable,” said Haney. “It was also preventable. A month ago I was yelling and screaming and demanding to move these people out of that environment.

Haney warns the outbreak has implications beyond the shelter.

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“If you think this is just about unhoused or homeless people, you’ve got it wrong,” Haney explains. “People who are unhoused and homeless interact regularly with people who are not. The potential for this to spread from large crowd at shelters to the street to the people that are housed — to people that are close to you and me and who we know — is huge.”