By Max Darrow

SAN FRANCISCO (KPIX) — There continues to be an enormous demand for COVID-19 testing across the Bay Area, but on Tuesday in San Francisco, some city-run test sites had to turn people away from their scheduled appointments for the second day in the row because of computer issues.

Color, the city’s testing partner, was still dealing with the same computer problems nationwide that hampered test sites in San Francisco and elsewhere on Monday.

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Monday night, Palo-Alto based Color tweeted that service would be suspended through Tuesday due to outages and people with postponed appointments would be contacted with alternative testing options.

Color shared the following statement regarding the outage:

“We have temporarily suspended service through the end of today at our San Francisco testing sites to ensure that people do not have to wait unnecessarily. We are managing intermittent outages that have impacted our patient registration and sample collection software, and our team is actively working to resolve this situation. We will restore service at these locations as soon as possible. For anyone whose appointments were postponed today, Color will be in touch with alternative testing options. Please do not access these sites for testing at this time. Do not call 911 or go to the emergency room unless it’s a medical emergency. We apologize for the stress and inconvenience this has caused.”

“The fact that Color system went down nationally — this was a national issue — obviously was extraordinarily concerning and has had a major impact in the last 24 hours in our ability to provide testing for people,” San Francisco Department of Public Health Dr. Grant Colfax said Tuesday morning.

However, Dr. Colfax said there are other issues at play also contributing to problems at test sites, such as staffing shortages.

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“Our testing infrastructure is also affected by workers getting sick and the high demand on our system,” he said. “At the local level, we are doing everything we can at the Health Department to expand testing, not only in terms of staffing and physical sites, but we also need the raw materials – the tests. We have ordered tens of thousands of those home test kits. Those home test kits are finally starting to arrive now. That’s a national and international issue.”

Crowds continue to show up at test sites all across San Francisco. Colfax says they’ve scaled up testing capabilities over the last several weeks. Some test sites are operating at 500-900% of their capacity.

“We have more than doubled our testing capacity since the surge began. Now we’re averaging more than 10,000 tests per day in San Francisco. Last Monday, we broke our previous record, conducting 17,731 tests in just one day,” Colfax said. “It’s an average of about 1,250 San Franciscans per day that are testing positive for COVID. Right now, nearly 1 in 5 tests are positive.”

Despite that, however, Colfax acknowledged testing needs to be more accessible.

“It’s become apparent that during this surge we need to take a more robust approach to expanding our testing infrastructure,” he said. “We are seeing where our systems need strengthening at the local, state, and federal level, including access to testing.”

On Tuesday, Mayor London Breed ordered the city’s private healthcare providers to increase testing capacity for those in their system and staff, or face fines.

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“In August of 2021, the DPH issued an order requiring all healthcare facilities to provide a test within 24 hours when a member of their system or staff is symptomatic or has been in close contact with someone with COVID. This health order is so important and needs to be followed. Right now, that doesn’t seem to be the case in all instances,” Breed said. “So today, I’m announcing a mayoral order to require all healthcare providers to submit weekly proof to the Department of Public Health that they are meeting this goal, and if they don’t, they could be subject to fines. To be clear, this isn’t about punishment. It’s about everyone doing their part. Our private healthcare providers need to do their part for their members so that our city is not overwhelmed and not able to provide testing in a timely manner.”

Max Darrow