Earlier testing at the BART Plaza. Community volunteers and researchers huddle at 24th Street before major post-Thanksgiving testing campaign. Photo by Julian Mark

The San Francisco Department of Public Health and the Latino Task Force for Covid-19 will operate a two-day drop-in testing site Wednesday and Thursday at the 24th BART Plaza to serve the Latinx community and essential workers, the health department and the task force announced today.

To make the site possible, some 700 tests a day have been reallocated from CityTest SF Embarcadero, where DPH has been using 68 percent of the city’s testing resources, according to DPH.

Mission Local’s story about that allocation provoked several heated conversations with the city, said Jon Jacobo, the head of the health committee for the Latino Task Force. Apparently, the city listened.

“The city is now partnering with the Latino Task Force on a more serious level,” said Jacobo. “This is our first rodeo.”

Jacobo said the Latino Task Force wanted to start small, with just two days of testing. He applauded the city’s willingness to allow the Latino Task Force to be the lead on the project. This is the first time the city has collaborated so closely with the Latino Task Force, a group that emerged in March as a leader in providing resources to the Latinx community.

“Depending on how this goes, we will look to the future to see how we can scale up the effort and get more testing,” he said, adding that they have long advocated for more testing in the Mission.

A spokesperson from the city’s Covid Command Center added: “This is a pilot program and, if successful, we will work with the community to have this additional testing capacity available.”

Already, earlier testing campaigns run by UCSF and the Latino Task Force have demonstrated that the 24th Street BART station is a particularly good site for attracting residents and workers.

The pre-Christmas pop-up will offer “free, low-barrier testing with multilingual staff in Spanish, Chinese, and English.”

No appointments are needed, and the results will be reported within 24 to 48 hours, the health department said. Virusgeek, a new company, will be providing the technicians and processing the tests.

DPH said the site recognizes Covid-19’s disproportionate impact on the Latinx community, which has a “new case positivity rate of 112.68 per 10,000 residents compared to a citywide average of 72.17,” according to the health department.

Latinx residents represent 15 percent of the city’s population, but 44 percent of the city’s Covid-19 cases. 

With 700 tests a day used at the 24th Street BART station, the Embarcadero site will still have 1000 tests a day.

“Expanding low-barrier testing resources in communities with high prevalence of the virus, like the Mission neighborhood, is a top priority,” said Dr. Grant Colfax, the health department’s director. “Communities of color, particularly the Latino community, and essential workers continue to shoulder a disproportionate burden of COVID 19. 

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Founder/Executive Editor. 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 and raised. Like many local news outlets, The Tribune no longer exists. I left daily newspapers after working at The New York Times for the business, foreign and city desks. Lucky for all of us, it is still there.

As an old friend once pointed out, local has long been in my bones. My Master’s Project at Columbia, later published in New York Magazine, was on New York City’s experiment in community boards.

Right now I'm trying to figure out how you make that long-held interest in local news sustainable. The answer continues to elude me.

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  1. The company that provided the first self-swab COVID-19 testing in the Mission is Virus Geeks, not Virusgeek. Please correct the company’s name. Thank you.

  2. When are they going to set up vaccination stations in the Mission? Or are all those sites going to be in the Presidio or Pacific Heights?

  3. I’m curious where the other testing is taking place; we show about 10,000 tests per day and only 1,700 mentioned here. Would love to see some investigative reporting on this. Also yea – this is long overdue – will they be using the binax rapid tests too?

  4. Why are you expecting anything different?
    City Hall has ALWAYS dumped its problems into the MISSION.
    Homeless and criminal elements from other parts of the city ( and some incidents from around the Bay Area) have always been dumped in the Mission. When these elements are not welcomed in other parts of the “City” they are dumped here in the Mission.
    And when the Mission needed affordable housing what do we get but expensive condos and apartments that those of us who live here can never hope to afford.
    Meanwhile, long term residents and businesses that have served this community for generations are squeezed out of San Francisco altogether.
    And now a pandemic that is devastating our neighborhood is barely recognized by City Hall.
    Oh ya, they will propose a pilot program, just to make it look like they’re doing something.
    Well, that may have flown back last spring or even the early summer, but this is the Winter equinox and they still treating our community as an expendable commodity.

  5. I don’t understand. Knowing how disproportionate the incidence of Covid is in the Latinx community, why in the world is Embarcadero, with its low incidence rate going to continue with 7000 weekly tests while the Mission gets 1400 (plus once a week at Alemany)? On what planet is DPH “Expanding low barrier testing resources in communities with high-prevalence of the virus like the Mission neighborhood” proportionate to the incidence rate? This is inexplicable to me: 9 months into the pandemic and this is the best they can do? The only explanation is that they just don’t want to know the true prevalence of Covid in the City because it would close things down tighter and longer. They’d rather throw Latinxs under the bus.

    1. Agreed.
      We’re neck deep in this thing and still at “pilot program”.

      Non-doofus alternative universe headline from July 18th 2020:

      “Expanding low barrier testing resources in communities with high-prevalence of the virus like the Mission neighborhood is a top priority and we are moving resources immediately to these areas” said Dr. Grant Colfax.

      Thanks ML for keeping the rock rolling uphill on this.