Casa Quezada

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Dolores Street Community Services said today that 22 residents and two employees at Casa Quezada have tested positive for COVID-19.   

Dolores Street blamed “a slow response time and a delay in mass testing” for the outbreak at the 52-unit permanent supportive housing site in a single-room-occupancy hotel at 35 Woodward Street, near Mission and Duboce. The nonprofit’s statement said “a confirmed case of COVID-19 contributed to a preventable scenario.” 

Indeed, after repeated requests, it took the Department of Public Health nearly six days and two confirmed cases to conduct on-site testing. In contrast, in a press release sent out today, the health department said that its handling of Casa Quezada was an example of the city’s “rapid response practice of testing vulnerable residents showing symptoms of COVID-19.” 

“In keeping with established protocols, and based on the contact investigation and the unique features of this building,” the department’s press release said. “DPH recommended testing all residents and staff and conducted that testing onsite on April 19.”  After showing symptoms earlier, the first resident tested positive on April 13.

But the nonprofit that manages the SRO said it took considerable prodding on their part — and support did not arrive soon enough.

“Every step of the way, knowing the risk factors influencing COVID-19 transmission, our staff have had to arduously advocate for testing, contact screening and access to isolation and quarantine rooms for our residents,” said Laura Valdez, executive director of Dolores Street Community Services.

“We regret that the testing did not happen sooner. In order to flatten the curve, we need to make sure DPH is properly resourced to prevent and respond to outbreaks” in single-room occupancy hotels. 

After being notified that there might not be enough rooms on site to quarantine all the residents who were exposed, Dolores Street asked that all Casa Quezada residents be placed in hotel rooms, where they could properly isolate. 

“Although 17 residents were negative, some most certainly will develop COVID-19 symptoms over the next two weeks, given the high rate of contagion,” the release said. 

As of Thursday, all residents have been safely transported to hotel rooms in the city’s Isolation & Quarantine Department.

Dolores Street also reported that the Mission SRO Collaborative, a Dolores Street program, has confirmed four COVID-19 positive cases at the Grand Southern and one at 16 Virginia, off Mission Street near 30th Street.

The Grand Southern is a 60+ unit hotel in the 1000 block of Mission near Civic Center, housing mostly families, seniors and immuno-compromised people.

In a detailed written timeline, Dolores Street Community Services described a frustrating week and a half at Casa Quezada beginning on April 9, when a resident came down with a persistent cough and a high fever. At that time, requests for testing and screening were rebuffed by health officials.  In the days that followed, two residents and a staff member tested positive for the virus. 

On April 13, the resident who had been showing COVID-19 symptoms tested positive for the virus. That same day a second resident began showing symptoms and went to the hospital for testing. Fearing an impending outbreak, staff contacted the Department of Public Health and asked for testing of the 60 remaining residents. At the very least, they hoped they those residents would receive screening. 

They would have no such support. 

DPH doctors inform[ed] our team on a call that they will not proceed to test all the residents of Casa Quezada,” Dolores Street Community Services explained in a written timeline of the events, noting also that the department would not send a nurse to screen residents. 

That day, Mission Neighborhood Health Center agreed to start testing residents but with limited capacity, only 15 would receive testing. 

Only after a second resident tested positive on April 16 and was transported to the emergency room with severe symptoms did the Department of Public Health agree to test all residents at the residential hotel. 

In the two days that Casa Quezada waited for the health department for testing, a staff member became seriously ill, was taken to the hospital, and subsequently tested positive for COVID-19. 

The next day, on April 18, the health department arrived. It conducted onsite testing and revealed the next day that 22 residents and two staff members have tested positive.

Diana Flores, the director of community engagement and organizing programs at the nonprofit, called the incident a learning experience. “We’ve to be in conversations where it doesn’t take weeks or days to respond when we see a crisis coming,” she said. 

She said that she would like to see more equity in the city’s response, as many residents and staff are low-income and Latino. “We want the department to take heed to that,” she said. “MSC south should have been a forewarning.”  

Hello everyone! If you can help, we could sure use the money.

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Founder/Executive Editor. I’ve been a Mission resident since 1998 and a professor emeritus at Berkeley’s J-school since 2019 when I retired. I got my start in newspapers at the Albuquerque Tribune in the city where I was born and raised. Like many local news outlets, The Tribune no longer exists. I left daily newspapers after working at The New York Times for the business, foreign and city desks. Lucky for all of us, it is still there.

As an old friend once pointed out, local has long been in my bones. My Master’s Project at Columbia, later published in New York Magazine, was on New York City’s experiment in community boards.

Right now I'm trying to figure out how you make that long-held interest in local news sustainable. The answer continues to elude me.

Julian grew up in the East Bay and moved to San Francisco in 2014. Before joining Mission Local, he wrote for the East Bay Express, the SF Bay Guardian, and the San Francisco Business Times.

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  1. The Grand Southern Hotel mentioned here is at 1933 Mission Street, near 16th and Mission. Its NOT the same as the Hotel Grand Southern on 1000 block of Mission (also known as Isabel Hotel).

  2. A fitting legacy for Eric Quezada. When Quezada and Joe Lynn were alive, Joe was ombudsperson at the HIV Planning and Prevention Council. DSCS had the Cohen homes on Dolores that were inherited from 18th Street Services (if memory serves) to serve PWAs.

    DSCS’s saw its mission as “serving” homeless and poor Latinos. So they saw Cohen as a distraction. One resident complained to Joe that management and staff were messing with him for sport and that their supportive housing operation had transferred their scripts to a pharmacy out by Ocean Beach. Joe tried to get DSCS and Quezada to respond to the complaint. But they never did.

    We’re seeing that the nonprofit class of operators were basically marking time all of these years as I’d said. MEDA did nothing to help Mission businesses insulate themselves from displacement, now they’re in the business of building and managing what are going to end up as densely packed tenements. DSCS was supposed to serve homeless Latinos. Not only did homeless housing and services crest at a trickle, none of it made a dent in the underlying problems.

    Now the failure of the neoliberal nonprofit approach to community organizing, social justice and service provision is revealed as a not-up-to-the-task self-serving fraud. And the City is throwing more money at them during the crisis. Unreal.

    1. Lot going on in your comment, but if the key claim you make is that city government should develop expertise in acquiring, building, and running our shelter system instead of outsourcing it to a patchwork of dubiously run nonprofits, I think you are entirely right.

      1. Yes, speaking to a general audience and for the insiders. When I read this quote from DHCS Diana Flores:

        ‘She said that she would like to see more equity in the city’s response, as many residents and staff are low-income and Latino. “We want the department to take heed to that,” she said. “MSC south should have been a forewarning.” ‘

        I read that as “give us more contracts and grants so that we can have some more learning experiences.”

        We most certainly should shift the decimal point to spend much more on basic human needs. But there is no reason why that must be outsourced and mediated through these shady nonprofits that see accountability as racism/classism.

        When I hear the people paid by the City to promote equity for Latinos calling out the gross inequities Latinos are facing from COVID19, I gotta ask “what were you all doing for all of those decades as the voice of ‘the community?” Pelosi too. Been in office for decades and could not be bothered for disaster contingency planning for a totally predictable deadly airborne pathogen, in this case, a viirus.

        It is very difficult to make the case for an activist government when we throw good money at these problems and at best they persist and get worse slightly slower than had we done nothing.

  3. If the city keeps reacting this fast we’ll all be dead by Christmas. Seems like they are depending on “sheltering in place” to do most of the hard work for them. I mean after 110 people got sick at that big “navigation center”, I mean homeless shelter a week or two ago while City Hall twiddled its thumbs. Granted test kits are tight and were tighter. But that’s why politicians have throats, to scream about stuff like that on TV. I was out walking up to a local park today. I do it every Friday and today everybody was out and about like last year. Though a lot were wearing masks etc. And one young guy on Duboce was walking up the street without one and was coughing his guts out. I pulled my bandana up over my nose and fled into the empty street till I was past him. The sidewalks and trees are not contagious but coughs are. That was the most public coughing I’ve heard in a while.

  4. wrong address in article. it’s 10 blocks from 938 valencia, if I go by the address in the photo. Up near market street.