SAN FRANCISCO (CBS SF) — San Francisco announced Monday it was expanding its COVID-19 testing with three new testing sites, including the city’s first mobile testing site in the troubled Tenderloin District.
The two other testing sites were unveiled in the Bayview-Hunters Point neighborhood and at City College in San Francisco, designed to serve residents in the Outer Mission/Excelsior Districts.
The expanded testing comes after a number of reports showing that the number of people being tested for the coronavirus in the city daily was falling far short of capacity. It also comes nearly two weeks after San Francisco announced a plan to address worsening conditions in the Tenderloin during the coronavirus pandemic, in response to a lawsuit calling for the cleanup of “deplorable conditions” and removal of a growing homeless encampment.
In a press release Monday, the city said the new testing sites were part of the efforts to reach communities that are affected by disparities in the spread of coronavirus and provide additional testing resources in areas of the city that do not have as many testing options.
The announcement comes a Officials with the City of San Francisco announced a plan to address worsening conditions in the Tenderloin during the coronavirus pandemic, following a lawsuit calling for the cleanup of “deplorable conditions” and removal of a growing homeless encampment.
Testing is one of San Francisco’s defined key pillars to moving on from phase one of coronavirus response. But, on Friday, Chopper 5 flew over one of the city’s test sites on Piers 30 and 32 finding very little activity.
Over the course of an hour on Monday, KPIX5 cameras spotted 34 cars drive into the Embarcadero test site, along with a dozen walk-ins at Pier 30.
With new testing sites coming to Bayview/Hunters Point, City College and the Tenderloin, the hope is testing numbers rise dramatically.
“As of this moment, we don’t know how sick we are and we need to know how sick we are,” said Del Seymour of Code Tenderloin.
According to the Department of Public Health’s website, more the 44,000 coronavirus tests have been conducted.
Combined, the new sites will add capacity to conduct over 500 additional COVID-19 tests per day, according to city officials.
“These new testing sites help make testing more convenient and accessible for San Franciscans, especially people who are most at-risk and communities that have been hardest hit by the virus,” said Mayor London Breed in a prepared statement. “As we continue toward universal testing, it’s critical that we focus on reaching communities that have historically been underserved and that don’t have as many testing resources available to them.”
“Today, we are taking another step towards ensuring equitable access to testing for San Franciscans,” said the city Public Health Officer Dr. Grant Colfax in a statement. “By strengthening our efforts in neighborhoods that we know are most vulnerable to severe impacts of the virus, we continue to help people get the care they need and slow the spread of the virus. Not only does testing expansion help identify cases more rapidly and inform outbreak detection, it also continues to be an essential part of our overall strategy towards recovery.”
The mobile testing site in the Tenderloin will offer walk-through COVID-19 testing beginning Wednesday, initially at the Tenderloin Recreational Center, and later it will move to another high-need neighborhood.
While online appointments were encouraged, staffers from Glide Memorial Church and Code Tenderloin would be onsite to help register people who don’t have online access.
Seymour says proximity is key for people in the densely packed neighborhood.
“We have a lot of encampments and if you’re part of an encampment, it’s dangerous leave your tent because it may not be there when you come back somebody might’ve taken something out of it — so people are comfortable taking short trips away from their encampments – so this provides that.”
The Tenderloin site will only be open 9 days.
District 6 Supervisor Matt Haney says it needs to become a permanent fixture.
“We have to test a lot more people if we’re gonna get to the next phase and start opening up. We need to know who’s sick, we need to know which communities have been greater impacted. We need to isolate and quarantine those who have been exposed,” said Supervisor Haney.
The new testing site at the City College Student Health Center is open to any California resident and targets the 94112 zip code which encompasses the Excelsior and OMI neighborhoods, identified as an area that has lacked testing facilities.
The third testing site at the Bayview Child Health Center will run from Wednesday, May 20, through Friday, May 22, and continuing every Friday thereafter for the foreseeable future.
Any worker that serves San Francisco and who leaves their home to work can get tested for COVID-19, regardless of symptoms or exposure. Any person living in San Francisco with at least one symptom of COVID-19 or who has been exposed to someone with a confirmed case of COVID-19 can get tested. For more information about COVID-19 testing, contact your primary health care provider, call 311, or visit SF.gov/GetTestedSF.