The University of California at San Francisco, the Latino Task Force and other community groups will conduct free Covid-19 testing before and after the Thanksgiving holiday in a “Healthy Holidays” campaign to mitigate the high risk confronting the Latinx community and other vulnerable populations.
The first round of the testing campaign will offer 500 PCR covid tests per day at 24th Street and Mission BART Station from Sunday to Tuesday, Nov. 22 to 24, from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.
The campaign at the BART station will resume after the holidays, and will extend to other neighborhoods with high viral transmission rates, including the Bayview, Excelsior and Tenderloin.
“There’s an expected surge for Thanksgiving and the rest of the year, and we know this community is really impacted and has a hard time accessing testing,” said Diane Jones, a former UCSF HIV nurse who regularly works at Mission covid testing pop-ups. The goal is to provide prevention messages, testing and a response that allows covid-positive residents to self-isolate, Jones said.
After Thanksgiving, Healthy Holidays testing will run for three days starting Sunday, Nov. 29 from 9 a.m. to 3:45 p.m. at the 24th Street Mission BART, Mendell Plaza in the Bayview, and the 100 block of Golden Gate Ave. in the Tenderloin. The Excelsior site will be at the Crocker Amazon parking lot and run on the same dates from 10 a.m. to 5:45 p.m. The Excelsior site offers both walk-up and drive-through testing.
The Mission testing will begin early because the neighborhood has consistently seen high positivity and transmission rates, Jones said.
Currently, the Mission is averaging 42 new cases per 10,000 people,; Bayview averages 52 new cases per 10,000 people, the Tenderloin averages 31 new cases per 10,000 people, and the Excelsior averages 35 new cases per 10,000 people.
Past UCSF studies have shown that a rapid test-to-care model — in which people are tested, isolated, and given access to care, including food , cleaning supplies and economic support as quickly as possible — can limit covid exposure and spread. This model also requires effective contact tracing.
As covid cases surge across the country at record rates, medical experts and public officials have discouraged people from traveling or gathering at Thanksgiving and winter holidays. But messages of self-isolation are easier said than done for employees that live paycheck to paycheck, Jones said.
Staying home is not an option for many people, she said. ”[Essential workers must resume] working in nursing homes or in the food and beverage industry, and they can’t shelter in place,” Jones said.
Earlier UCSF/Latino Task Force studies reported a high rate of infection among Latinxs who work outside of the house and live in crowded conditions. The last UCSF 24th Street BART pop-up study in late July and early August, found a high demand for the tests – the study ran out nearly every day – and a high positivity rate of 11 percent, compared to a citywide rate of 2.6 percent. And of all infected individuals at the study, 87 percent earned less than $50,000 a year.
Regarding the pre-Thanksgiving part of the Healthy Holidays campaign, people shouldn’t interpret negative results as a free pass to throw a huge indoor party, medical experts warned. After highlighting San Francisco’s “major surge” that pushed the city back two state-reopening tiers on Monday, Director of Health Dr. Grant Colfax alluded to how the fallacy of negative tests have caused outbreaks of infections, even in Washington D.C.
“And, as we have seen, a negative test cannot be an excuse to put yourself or others at risk,” Colfax said. “Don’t expose your loved ones around a holiday dinner table.”
At present, San Francisco is averaging 95 new cases a day and a 1.97 percent positivity rate. There have been 14,041 cases and 156 deaths in the city so far.
Ahead of the pop-ups, community groups plan on delivering outreach in both Spanish and English with flyers and door-to-door outreach. Follow-ups with infected individuals will continue throughout the holidays, Jones said.
I love the idea of getting a COVID test before getting together for the holidays. Everyone in my extended family is vaccinated except for my 4-year-old son. I would hate to miss out on Christmas again this year, but getting the family tested would help put my mind at ease for our holiday party.