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Two residents at MSC South, the largest San Francisco shelter with a current count of some 190 guests, have tested positive for COVID-19. This was confirmed by Shari Wooldridge, the executive director of the St. Vincent De Paul Society, which runs the shelter. 

Wooldridge said one of the shelter’s residents showed symptoms on Friday, and another on Saturday. Both tested positive for the highly contagious disease, and were transported to hotels to quarantine. 

“We know that it’s coming,” Wooldridge said about what may be on the horizon with the positive cases. “We’re doing everything we can.” 

She noted, however, that so far San Francisco has been relatively less impacted than other cities, and her staff is working hard to keep it that way at homeless shelters. That means more intense screening, admitting no new residents, and keeping the shelters clean. 

Wooldridge said 13 MSC South residents have been moved to the 400-bed Moscone West makeshift shelter, which opened Thursday. “We’re trying to do population thinning so we have six feet apart from everyone,” she said.

Limiting the transmission of COVID-19 among the city’s thousands of homeless residents has been a problem for city leaders. Since the period of “social distancing” and sheltering-in-place began last month, debate has raged over whether to merely thin out the population at homeless shelters or send the entire population en masse into the city’s vacant hotel rooms. 

Twitter was alight with outrage Monday morning, as Street Sheet published photos from inside the Moscone shelter, with hundreds of sleeping mats placed six feet apart. 

Shelter employees are also terrified to go to work, said Jane Bosio, a representative with OPEIU Local 29, which represents hundreds of employees at San Francisco’s homeless shelters. “It’s extremely distressing to hear the fear and confusion in the voices of members I’ve spoken to” at San Francisco shelters, she said, noting they are still working for minimum wage and should be receiving hazard pay. 

The staff has been working without sufficient protective equipment at the shelters — and some have been “presumed positive” for the disease, she told Mission Local on Friday

She did not blame anyone in particular for the positive tests at MSC South — “We’re all sick, everywhere,” she said — but said the city needs to place more medical staff at the shelters where crowding is endemic. A resident at the Navigation Center on 13th Street tested positive for COVID-19 last week.  

“There seems to be a great deal of confusion,” she said. 

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