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.
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