Masked worker at Happy Donuts on 24th and Church Streets. Photo by Lola M. Chavez

Residents and essential workers in San Francisco with COVID-19 symptoms can now be tested for free, Mayor London Breed announced today. 

The testing, by appointment, includes all essential workers experiencing symptoms, “employees at private companies and small businesses who are doing essential work, such as grocery store employees, social workers, restaurant workers, transit providers, and delivery workers.” 

The mayor’s office said that its new program can test as many as 1,500 people per day at two sites: at Piers 30-32, and in SoMa at Seventh and Brannan. 

The former, which has the ability to serve 1,000 people a day, will be a vast expansion of testing in the city, which reached a high of 532 tests on April 15. It is currently open by appointment. The latter will open on Monday, and is meant to serve residents showing symptoms without easy access to medical care. 

“Our goal is for every San Francisco resident who has symptoms of COVID-19 to have access to testing,” Breed said in a statement. “We want to ensure all frontline and essential employees that leave their homes every day to serve our residents have a fast, easy, and accessible option for testing.” 

She also noted it was important to test “those who don’t have insurance, or who lack access to health care or access to basic services to know they can be tested through CityTestSF and receive the support and health care they need.” 

Both sites will be open for drive-through and walk-through, by appointment. Results are expected to take one to three days. 

The testing is being done in collaboration with Color, a high-volume testing lab, as well as Carbon Health and One Medical.

The augmentation in testing will increase the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in San Francisco, the mayor’s office said. As of Wednesday, there were 1,233 confirmed cases in San Francisco, a 0.2 percent increase from the day before, and 21 confirmed deaths. 

The initiative is an expansion of existing testing efforts that launched in early April, in which only frontline health care workers and first responders were eligible for tests. 

More details about “CityTestSF” can be found here. 

Dr. Grant Colfax, the director of the Department of Public Health, said during Wednesday’s press conference that “it is critical to test people with symptoms so that swift action can follow to provide care, contact investigation, and isolation in quarantine.”

“The vision is that everyone in San Francisco has universal access to testing,” Colfax said. “We cannot get there overnight, but we are certainly headed in that direction.”

Aside from the two CityTestSF sites in Pier 30-32, there are currently 24 more testing sites throughout the city, including three community testing sites at SFGH, Castro-Mission Health Center, and Southeast Health Center in Bayview.

Colfax announced that DPH will open a fourth community testing site in the Western Addition next to Maxine Hall Health Center tomorrow.

“We have enough testing materials and enough protective equipment to expand” testing more essential workers and residents who have symptoms or come in close contact with a confirmed case, he said.

Colfax said that their next focus is to expand testing in congregant settings, such as in shelters, Single Room Occupancy housing, long-term care facilities, and in geographic cultural areas who are disproportionately affected by the disease.

He added that expanding testing to those areas would be “dependent on the supply chain stabilizing over time.”

Acquiring testing “supplies continue to be a challenge,” Colfax said. There is “simply no centralized system to help local jurisdictions figure out in a clear way” how to expand capacity, he said.

Economic impact

Mayor Breed also talked about ongoing efforts to mitigate the economic impact of COVID-19.

She reported that the Give2SF fund has now received more than $10 million in donations to address needs with food security, housing security, and support to small businesses in the city.

Out of the $10 million raised, Breed said that the fund has allocated $5.35 million to nonprofit and other organizations that distribute monetary and grocery store gift cards to low-income residents and undocumented immigrants.

She also said that the city has been offering grants and no-interest loans with flexible payment schedules to small businesses. She wanted to remind business owners who have access to other financial resources to “not reach out to this fund” to give way to those who need the support more.

“No matter how much money we raise, it’s gonna be difficult to help everybody,” she said.

The mayor said that during the 2008 recession, about 45,000 San Franciscans filed for unemployment.

In comparison, some 60,000 San Franciscans have filed for unemployment, as of April 4. The city expects 40,000 more to file in the coming weeks, she said.

The mayor said that the city anticipates a budget deficit of $1.1 to 1.7 billion and that the Economic Recovery Task Force is focused on planning about the city’s future economic health.

She outlined some changes that the city has implemented to help businesses manage their financial burden.

The city has deferred collecting business registration fees until September 30, and business taxes until February, 2021. 

Businesses that are hard hit by the pandemic, such as restaurants, bars, and tour operators, will also see a further extension of paying the unified license fees, which were initially extended for three months already. Breed said that they are also looking into “what fees we can eliminate entirely.”

“It’s important as a city that we look at all of the fees that we charge our businesses and make some decisions to eliminate fees in general that have a negative impact on the ability for our small business community to return,” she said.

She is encouraging “any business that needs any support” to reach out to the city by calling 311 or visiting the resource page of the San Francisco Office of Economic and Workforce Development.

Keep Mission Local’s reporters on the story.

Julian Mark

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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