SACRAMENTO (CBS SF) — Addressing criticism over access to coronavirus testing, Gov. Gavin Newsom said during his daily briefing Monday that he was developing a plan to eliminate ‘testing deserts’ within the state, particularly when it comes minority and rural populations in California.
Currently, it is easier to qualify for a coronavirus test in Los Angeles than it is in rural Sacramento County.
“We are working aggressively to address the disparities (in testing availability),” Newsom said. “Disparities as they manifest in different forms. Let me be specific about what I mean. There are racial and ethnic disparities. There are socioeconomic disparities, but there are also geographic disparities that must addressed as it relates to the needs of rural communities and as it relates to the needs across parts of the state even within urban centers that are historically under-served.”
He has put together a task force to develop a plan to make testing more readily available no matter where one lives.
“The purpose of the task force is to define those areas,” he said. “In fact, today they provided me with a heat map with every one of these areas that I would refer to as a testing desert. And the strategies…to address those issues.”
Newsom promised to release more details about the state’s plan at his Wednesday briefing. However, the governor did release victim statistics that revealed coronavirus’ devastating impact on the state’s ethnic populations.
Among the state’s 28,963 confirmed cases of the disease, 40 percent were within the Hispanic/Latino population. Of the 1,072 fatalities, 31 percent were Hispanic/Latino. Asians made up 13 percent of the positive cases and 16 percent of the deaths. African Americans accounted for 7 percent of those who tested positive but were at stunning 12 percent of all deaths.
In San Francisco, public health officials and University of California-San Francisco medical staffers will be launching a widespread testing campaign this week, hoping to determine how many of the more than 5,000 residents in city’s Mission District have been exposed to the virus.
Study participants who test positive for active COVID-19 infection will get immediate follow-up calls from UCSF infectious disease experts, working hand-in-hand with regional public health departments and community groups to assist with the process of facilitating isolation and quarantine.
“People in the Mission have been heavily affected by COVID-19,” a flyer distributed to explain the program stated. “Community-based testing will provide important information to people on whether they have COVID-19 now or have in the past and will help us understand how to stop the spread of the virus.”
The Mission District testing will be limited to some 5,700 residents who live between South Van Ness and Harrison Streets from Cesar Chavez to 23rd St.
The campaign is a collaboration that includes UCSF medical teams, the Latino Task Force for COVID-19 and the city’s public health department and will begin on April 23rd and stretch over three days. Volunteers will visit households from April 23-April 25. There will also be testing sites at Garfield Park, Ninos Unidos Park, Flynn Elementary School and Cesar Chavez Elementary School.
“All community members who are 4 years old and older who live in the study area are encouraged to attend, regardless of symptoms,” the flier states.
As of early Sunday, San Francisco has had 1,157 confirmed cases since the outbreak began with 20 deaths. The city’s Hispanic/Latino population accounted for 25 percent of the confirmed cases in the city.