SAN FRANCISCO (CBS SF) — In an effort to improve access to COVID testing in neighborhood hard hit by the illness, San Francisco officials announced Monday they were relocating a public health coronavirus test site from South Of Market to the Alemany Farmer’s Market.

Mayor London N. Breed and Director of Health Dr. Grant Colfax said the test site will open on Tuesday and operate five days a week with the capacity to test as many as 500 people a day.

According to health officials, the southeast sector of San Francisco carries a disproportionate virus burden and the reallocation of these 500 tests to that part of the city is a critical component for fighting the spread of the virus.

“Equity has been a priority for us throughout the pandemic, and part of having an equitable citywide response to COVID means that we direct our resources where there’s the most need,” Breed said in a release. “With the CityTestSF site at Alemany, we’re making testing even easier for people to access right in their own neighborhood.”

Since the onset of the pandemic, San Francisco moved quickly and aggressively to establish a robust public COVID-19 testing program, with partners Color and Carbon Health. San Francisco currently tests more than 5,800 people each day, which is the highest rate among Bay Area counties.

“We have to adapt our strategy to where the need is greatest and locating more high-capacity, low barrier testing to the most impacted part of the city is the smart strategy,” Colfax said in a news release. “As we experience a surge in cases in the city, the region and the nation, we must manage our public testing resources in the most efficient ways possible to slow the spread of the virus.”

But KPIX 5 has learned testing sites by the Embarcadero, the busiest in the city, has been jammed up by more than just essential workers or those who have been in contact with someone who has COVID.

“The city’s testing sites are really meant for people that are uninsured or have poor access to health care, and are symptomatic or have had a close contact with somebody who has COVID,” said Dr. Naveena Bobba with the SF Department of Public Health.

Members of the Latino task force echoed concerns over why test sites in the city are serving people who should not be a high priority, but also questioned why moving a test site to the area hardest hit with COVID cases didn’t happen sooner.

Community members say the Alemany Farmer’s Market site is months too late.

“It’s frustrating,” said Jon Jacobo, the health committee chairman with the Latino task force. He wants to know why serving the people carrying the highest rates of infection in the southeastern part of the city took so long.

“Why isn’t there more? That’s my other question. And why didn’t we have it six months ago? I mean, we’ve known since April that the highest rates of infection have been in the Bayview, the Mission and in the the Excelsior. Yet, up until this site, they had two of the largest facilities at Seventh and Brannen and the Embarcadero.”

During their Monday news conference, San Francisco health officials said they plan to add more pop-up locations in areas that need it most as COVID case rates continue to rise.

San Francisco currently has the highest testing rate per capita of any other city in the United States. The city currently administers and funds 55 percent of all COVID-19 tests conducted in San Francisco.

If you have insurance, San Francisco health officials request that you schedule a test with your doctor.

The hours of Alemany CityTestSF site are:

  • Monday: 12:30 p.m. – 4:30 p.m.
  • Tuesday – Thursday: 8:30 a.m. – 4:30 p.m.
  • Friday: 8:30 a.m. – 12:30 p.m.

Juliette Goodrich contributed to this story.

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