SAN FRANCISCO (CBS SF) — The capacity for San Francisco to conduct COVID-19 testing has expanded, but the number of tests being offered is still falling far short of what is needed, a San Francisco public health official said Tuesday evening.
Dr. Susan Philip, the director of infectious disease prevention and control with the city’s public health department, told the Board of Supervisors in a video hearing that the city has the capacity to test 5,800 people per day if you include the CityTestSF free test sites, the public hospitals and other medical sites, but right now only 500 people per day are being tested.
“We have seen the number of tests increase over the last few days, but you are correct there is a large gap now that we need to close between the tests we could be doing and the tests we are doing,” Philip said.
“If we can do over 5,000 tests a day we should be doing over 5,000 tests a day,” said Supervisor Matt Haney. “It is absolutely unacceptable to have 500 being done when the capacity is much higher than that.”
Haney said he wants the criteria to be expanded to folks who are asymptomatic. Also, he points out, tests are by appointment only through a web site but not everybody has internet access, especially people on the street who are very much at risk of getting infected.
“We know that this is a huge way that we are going to open back up,” Haney said. “We need to massively expand the number of people being tested before they start showing symptoms.”
KPIX 5 observed the two CityTestSF sites have not had much traffic for days. Officials said both the facility on the Embarcadero at Piers 30 and 32 and the one on 7th street South of Market have the combined capability of testing 1,500 people, but so far only a total of 2,000 people have been tested at both locations.
Originally the CityTestSF sites were only testing health care workers and first responders by appointment only. The criteria has recently expanded to include folks who are symptomatic; showing signs of the disease.
Philip says the problem for weeks has been a global shortage of testing materials, like swabs and media but she told the supervisors that the supply chain has stabilized for now. So, the city now plans to expand the testing criteria to include folks who are not just experiencing a fever or a cough, but soon you could get a free COVID-19 test if you have a headache or runny nose or even just fatigue.
So far, officials have provided no timetable for the expansion of tests.