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.”
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