Free Covid testing flyers on Folsom Street residence. The Latino Task Force and UCSF collaborated on the project and the Right to Recover funds came out of that experience. Photo by Lola M. Chavez

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Some Mission residents we’ve talked to said they were reluctant to participate in the COVID-19 test that will be launched this weekend. 

As we talked with one of the residents  — we’ll call her “Andrea” — and answered her questions, she began to reconsider. Maybe it’s a matter of education, she said, and the need to know more about the tests. 

So here are answers to some of the misgivings we have heard from Andrea and others. 

UC San Francisco doctors and community groups hope to test 5,700-odd residents living in a census tract that runs from 23rd to Cesar Chavez streets, and from South Van Ness Avenue to Harrison Street. Check your eligibility and register here.  

Here are some of the questions that have come up:

Will taking the test affect my immigration status? 

No. UCSF and the Latino Task Force for COVID-19 have both stated clearly that this is not a “public charge” and will not affect your immigration status. 

What are researchers testing for? 

Doctors will be performing two tests. One test will check whether you are currently infected with COVID-19. Even if you don’t have symptoms, you could be carrying COVID-19. 

The other will check whether you have ever had COVID-19 in the past. 

How will I be tested? Will they stick a needle in me? 

No. To test for the current presence of COVID-19, scientists will swab your throat and your nose with something like a Q-tip. 

The antibody test involves pricking one finger to take a very small amount of blood. Scientists will not be drawing large quantities of blood or putting large needles in your body. 

Results of the direct test will be available in 72 hours. The antibody test will be available in 2-3 weeks.

Will showing up at a test site increase my chances of getting infected? 

“We are following careful procedures, including providing masks for people who come to get tested who do not have their own, registering people for testing appointments to minimize any lines and continuing with social distancing guidelines to ensure the safety of participants who come to test, as well as the safety of the staff offering testing,” said Dr. Gabriel Chamie of UCSF, who is helping to lead the study. 

Why should I participate? 

Our understanding of how COVID-19 spreads is very limited, and the more information we have about it, the sooner we can return to normal life and allow small businesses to reopen. 

“This study would provide valuable information to understand the extent of the infection in our community, link those affected to care and supportive services and give guidance to when and how we should be lifting some of the more severe restrictions,” Dr. Chamie said. 

It will also let you know whether you are infected — or have been in the past.  “If someone tests positive for the COVID-19 antibody, that indicates past infection with COVID-19,” Chamie said. 

The tests are also free. As testing has been scarce, free testing is very coveted and is an opportunity for the community.

I don’t feel sick. Why should I participate? 

“People can be infected and have no or mild symptoms, and there are those who were infected in the past and don’t realize it,” Dr. Chamie said. Getting tested will give you and your family information for making decisions and it will give the city information for making decisions for the whole city.  

If I test positive, will I receive help? 

Yes. “If someone tests positive for the COVID-19 virus, our study team will contact them, make sure they know their results, discuss what they mean, and help them come up with a plan for self-isolation and for quarantine for their household members (if applicable),” Chamie said. 

“We will also provide additional support, resources permitting, for food, cleaning supplies and masks. The testing (for all) and additional support services (for those who test positive) are free of charge.” 

Why are they testing here? 

You live in one of the densest areas of San Francisco. Scientists want to know how the virus spreads in a dense area. These tests are scarce and so it is actually a huge benefit to the community to be able to go in and get tested for free. 

What does it mean if the test shows that I have already had it? Can I go out? 

No. As Dr. Chamie said, it’s unclear if having had COVID-19 in the past means you’re now immune. 

“… we do not know yet if being antibody positive provides protective immunity or not — so these results would not mean that people should stop following the shelter-in-place and other public health guidelines. These public health response guidelines still apply to all.”

Will the results be publicized with my name? 

No. “All testing results are shared with the San Francisco Department of Public Health (this is required by law on all COVID tests),” Dr. Chamie said, “but we will not be publicizing anyone’s identity.”  Any information provided publicly will not be associated with any names. 

If you have other questions, please register for Mission Local’s texting service by subscribing at 415-868-4861. You can ask us questions and we will also send news alerts about resources you can use. 

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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. Where are the results of the PCR tests? It has been more than 72 hours since the testing ended.

  2. I tried to call this TN no : (415) 868-4861 to register …… an answering said that TN no is ” no longer in service or is disconnected. I am from the Mission district and would like to register. My name is Oscar Saddul at 2460 Mission St. # 217, SF, Ca 94110., my TN ( 415) 641-5600. Please register me and make an appointment for me at any time and day. Kindly reply for when is my appointment and where to go.

  3. Why did SF Gov and UCSF choose Dimagi?

    What other companies will be involved in the testing?

    What will Dimagi do with the data? Where will the data be stored? Is it safe? Has Dimagi ever been hit with a data breach? What will happen if the data is stored then breached?

    Who will Dimagi share the data with?

    How will immigration status be protected? There are other issues besides public charge. The Feds have been going after people with DACA since October. How do I know they won’t start coming after me?

    Dimagi received funding from and contracts with USAID. USAID trains police forces throughout Central America. These police forces engage in human rights violations and do nothing to stop gangs from targeting people. Should I trust an organization that does this?

    USAID set up a fake “Twitter” in Cuba to help overthrow the Cuban government. Will my data be used in a similar, subversive manner?

    Dimagi works with the World Bank. The World Bank restructures national economies to integrate them into the global capitalist economy. This leads to economic devastation across the globe. Why should I trust an organization that participates in this?

    The UCSF Doctors participating in this have connections to Gilead, Merck, and other giant pharmaceutical corporations. Will my data be supplied to these corporations?

    Will the data I submit be used to develop a vaccine? Who will create the vaccine? Will I be able to profit from this? Or will UCSF Docs and people who work for Dimagi profit?

    Will SF Gov make all contracts with Dimagi public? Will UCSF make discussions, negotiations, communications, contracting, etc. with Dimagi public?

    Will the CEO of Dimagi participate in a Town Hall meeting of sorts so people can ask him questions about how the data will be used?

    There’s more.

  4. Why such a small section of the District. Why not the SRO’s or the rest of the Mission for that matter.

  5. The PCR test (with the swab) is the one that detects if you are currently infected. The antibody test (with the blood sample) is the one that detects if you previously had it.

  6. I don’t think this information is correct. See – the two types of tests are a “PCR” test and an “Antibody” test. PCR checks for current illness and results will be in 72 hours. The “Antibody” tests past infection and results will be available in 2-4 weeks.

      1. I am an essential worker employed by a supermarket chain who lives within the designated Covid-19 testing areas in S.F.s Mission District. Being exposed almost daily to the public, naturally I would want to get tested. But when I followed missionlocal’s link to register for testing, I was surprised to find out I was considered ineligible. Why would this be?