Source DPH.

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. 

Month to month testing data. Source: 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. 

Source: DPH.

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.

Keep coming back and if you haven’t already, support Mission Local’s reporting. If you have, thank you.

Lydia Chávez

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

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  1. “low-barrier testing will be available at the Alemany Farmers Market five days a week”

    Being available to be tested from 8:30-4:30 on weekdays only (current hours at SoMa) is, itself, a barrier. Worse, the Tenderloin testing site at Glide requires that you show up in person to make an appointment between 10-4 on Thursdays and Fridays and then come back on Tuesday or Wednesday to actually get tested.

    Does the city not know what “low-barrier” even means? It seems like the 24th Street BART station model really worked, and yet it ended and we’ve just sat around for months not replicating it?

  2. Buenos días ? !

    Alemany Market is at the intersection of Portola, Bayview, Bernal and Outer Mission neighboring districts, but not Excelsior, as the article states. COVID testing that will be led by the city “City Test”. This site will not replace existing community led testing hubs.

    I agree Alemany Market is a great location for all who work and live in the city at a strategic location for testing five days a week. 101 and 280 freeway entrances located close to test site.

    Alemany Market is not a community led test site like the Mission Hub -LTF and Excelsior Strong Collaborative-LTF District 11, Crocker Amazon Park.

    Latinos Task Force -Mission Hub COVID TESTING 10-3 pm 701 Alabama 94110. Thursday weekly walk up testing.

    Excelsior Strong Collaborative -Latino Task Force Extensión 94112-weekly COVID TESTING Monday 10-6pm testing at Crocker Amazon Park -Moscow Street. ONLY Hybrid model drive or walk up available in San Francisco.
    Culturally competent services for LatinX population and for all community residents in need. Gracias

  3. Why is the city shutting down a location that is easily accessible to several dense neighborhoods instead of opening a third site? If you live and work in the Mission, there is now no way to get tested during your work break, as the new locations are too far.

    If they insist on shutting a location down, they should just shut down the Embarcadero testing center… unless the fish and empty office buildings need to get swabbed.

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