The San Francisco Department of Public Health will move the CitySF testing site currently located at Seventh and Brannan streets in SoMa into a new site in the Excelsior, in the parking lot of the Alemany Farmers Market, Dr. Grant Colfax, the director of Public Health, said in an interview today.
The move, which will take place by mid-November, is part of an effort to do more testing in San Francisco’s southeastern neighborhoods heavily impacted by Covid-19.
“We do need to ensure that we provide more permanent testing in communities where prevalence is higher,” said Colfax. To that end, “low-barrier testing will be available at the Alemany Farmers Market five days a week, and we’re hoping that will start by mid-November.”
The site will have the capacity to test 500 residents a day, Colfax said.
In a separate interview, Dr. James Marks from DPH said that while it has taken the city time to redeploy its resources for a number of reasons, the city will now be focusing more strategically on impacted communities. “We want more of the testing done in populations, neighborhoods, races and ethnicities where the disease is. Full stop,” Marks said.
Mission Local first reported in September on the disparity in how the city was using its testing resources.
Positivity rates at the SoMa site, Colfax said, have been particularly low, and the city has long promised to move some of its low-barrier testing to more impacted neighborhoods. Up until now, that has been done primarily through existing community clinics and pop-ups that operate once or, at most, twice a week.
The Alemany Farmers Market site is accessible by the 24, 44, 67, 8, 9, and 9R Muni buses and SamTrans No. 292. It’s unclear whether there will be walk-up registration, or if residents will have to register online, as City Test SF now requires.
Colfax also announced that on Tuesday the city will issue a request for proposals to grant $5.25 million dollars to neighborhood groups working on covid aftercare. The Latino Task Force has long fought for an aftercare strategy handled by community wellness teams – an approach that has the backing of UCSF and has been tested with the Latino Task Force in all of the community studies.
The news of new resources for the impacted communities comes as positivity rates for covid have fallen across the city since July’s peak. At that time, Latinx residents showed a positivity rate of 13.14 percent, compared to 1.89 percent for everyone else. Those rates dropped in October to a positivity rate of 3.15 percent for Latinx residents and 0.55 percent for everyone else, according to DPH.
“Although the ratio in October is the lowest to date,” said Marks, “it’s way higher than any of us would like it to be.”
While Latinx residents comprise half of the covid cases, testing resources have failed to reach them in near the same numbers.
DPH said today that the city has so far reported a total of 547,649 covid tests. However, it has ethnicity data for only 387,252 of those tests. Of those, 15.72 percent have gone to Latinx residents — who, again, comprise some 50 percent of covid cases.
Experts have wondered why more testing resources have not been directed to the Latinx and southeast communities, and why so many of the city’s limited testing resources have been used for the Embarcadero and SoMa testing sites, where the positivity rates have been low.
Opening a fixed site in the southeast is a big step toward addressing that imbalance. And it could prove valuable, if there is a winter surge, to have fixed and five-days-a-week testing in the part of the city reporting most of the cases.
Colfax said the move of the SoMa site will be followed by increased testing at the city’s pop-up clinics in impacted neighborhoods.
UCSF’s July and August study at the 24th Street BART station was particularly successful in attracting residents to undergo testing, and Colfax said that these and other studies that DPH also helped with would help guide their strategy.
“We’re definitely looking at the potential [at transit hubs], and I think that you have significant potential at public transport hubs … that could be pop-up sites going forward,” Colfax said.
Moreover, Marks said that the city will begin this week to report testing data by ethnicity and neighborhood, a major change for anyone trying to keep up with how the city is using its limited testing resources.
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