The crowd at Dolores Park crammed in for Saturday's Pride festival. Photo by Abraham Rodriguez.

Mayor London Breed and a phalanx of other city officials offered an update Wednesday on the city’s COVID-19 efforts, including the addition of on-call mental health support for first responders and other city workers, and the immediate addition of five new around-the-clock public bathrooms, including one in the Mission District.

While Breed made it clear she had no crystal ball to predict how the city will return to normal, she indicated that large celebrations such as Pride were unlikely. The organizers of Carnaval, which was scheduled for the end of May, have already postponed that event until early fall. 

In response to a question about Pride, the mayor said, “once the shelter-in-place order is lifted, there is going to be a gradual process to get the city back on track and some level of normalcy, and I think it may not be possible to think we can launch a large-scale event.”

Much of the city’s efforts have been focused on making sure that the city’s hospitals do not get overwhelmed. To that end, the mayor said that ICU beds had been increased by 91 percent, to 535 beds, and acute beds had been increased by 52 percent, to 1,068 beds, the mayor said.  

To ensure that residents can get care for illnesses other than the COVID-19, the city has opened the first of possibly four field care hospitals. The first is in Bayview and can serve up to 100 patients a day for primary care, urgent care and to screen for COVID-19.

“Ultimately, we want to make sure that if you are not feeling well, you have an opportunity to go to a local clinic,” the mayor said, adding that, if needed, three more field care sites could be mobilized to reduce the number of people going to hospitals. 

The first five public toilets will be added and serviced 24 hours a day in the Mission, South of Market, the Tenderloin, the Bayview and the Castro. Another ten portable bathrooms will be added in the coming weeks. 

Dr. Grant Colfax, director of the San Francisco Department of Public Health, presented the city’s new data dashboard that will be updated daily. “So far, the numbers continue to go up but not at a rate faster than we can handle,” he said.  

He said those numbers will increase as the city’s testing capacity expands. “The more we test, the more we will find. We do not know yet when we will peek,” he said. So far, the city has tested some 6,000 individuals and some 13 percent were positive. 

Dr. Colfax also offered an update on Laguna Honda Hospital, which cares for some 750 seniors. As of today, there are 17 confirmed cases of COVID-19, including 13 staff who tested positive, and four residents, he said. The residents are all from the South 5 ward. Overall, he said, 298 hospital staff and 208 residents have been tested. 

He encouraged families to call in for an update on Laguna Honda that will be recorded daily in multiple languages. The phone number is 415-759-2190.  

Trent Rhorer, the executive director of the Human Services Agency, reiterated that the 7,000 hotel rooms the city now plans to obtain will be used for first responders and vulnerable populations. The latter include individuals who are COVID-19 positive or under investigation and cannot self-quarantine because they live in SRO hotels or shelters. Homeless residents from crowded shelters will also be moved into hotel rooms as well as vulnerable populations — those in shelters or on the streets who are over the age of 60.  

So far, the city has 1,977 hotel rooms under contract, including 880 for first responders and 1,097 for vulnerable populations. Of those rooms, 184 are being used by individuals considered vulnerable with the majority of those homeless, and 67 are being used by first responders. 

Neither Rhorer or Breed seemed ready to acquiesce to the demands of the Board of Supervisors that the city move all homeless residents into hotels. 

Breed said in response to a question that she would like more than anyone else to “house every single person on the street” but doing so “comes with so much more than opening up the doors and giving someone a hotel room.” The city must ensure the residents’ safety, but also the safety of those who are working to maintain and provide 24-hour service, she said.  

Rhorer said the cost to staff and maintain the current 1,977 rooms under contract is about $35 million over the first three months they are in use. Plans to maintain and secure all 7,000 rooms will cost $105 million over three months. The Federal Emergency Management Agency will reimburse states and localities for up to 75 percent of the costs for specific populations, and Gov. Gavin Newsom has provided another $150 million that will be shared across the state. 

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Lydia Chávez

I’ve been a Mission resident since 1998 and a professor at Berkeley’s J-school until 2019. I got my start in newspapers at the Albuquerque Tribune in the city where I was born and raised. The Tribune...

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4 Comments

  1. It’s mind boggling and abstract… I know that we can get through this, by prioritizing everyone’s needs, profit.

    Amsterdam has some good ideas for a new economic model that does pretty much that. It prob won’t happen here due to oppositions, but it’s good to learn from those making headway in the right direction.

    1. This isn’t Amsterdam and never will be. Stop the comparison. It’s nonsense.

      Obviously health care workers should get priority to quarantine in the hotel rooms.

      Mind numbing how much we spend on this homeless population. Those who are working and mentally functional need to be prioritized for the housing. For the bulk, we need comprehensive mental institutions. The thought that these individuals are capable of maintaining and willing to stay housed defies all logic.

      More flailing arms from the board of sups. What’s new? Same group that caters to the lowest denominator that blocks affordable housing (takes up too much street parking, building shadows the playground for 2 hours, it would change the feeling of the neighborhood, blah blah blah)

  2. Housing every homeless camper is one thing (est. 8000 – though you should really add in all the 1500? vehicle campers who don’t have toilets/running water). Its another thing to protect all those who are housed – in SROs – who have only a common bath +/or kitchen. 20,000+ SRO rooms – then think ‘Chinatown’ with families!, and are equally vulnerable

    Ah, I don’t think anyone is thinking of them, or at least I haven’t heard anyone outside the Admin..

    And it is indeed good news that FEMA and possibly CA may pick up a large chunk of the hotel room payments. But there is the matter of remaining costs and restoring tourist hotel rooms to the condition they were in prior. Some of that could come to five-digit reno costs per room (though not all will be ‘trashed’; but a minimum clean and repaint)

  3. Our City Organizers have immense health crisis to sort out – give bureaucracy time. We all should realise this can happen AGAIN

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