Of the more than 3,000 people tested at the 24th Street BART Plaza in the first week of a three-week test and research campaign, nearly one in 10 tested positive for Covid-19, according to researchers. The results were slightly worse when looking at Latinx residents, who represented 73 percent of all those tested.
The campaign was launched Jan. 10 by the University of California San Francisco’s and the Latino Task Force’s Unidos en Salud (United in Health), a testing and research alliance that began in April.
Since last Sunday, residents and workers have lined up early to get the Binax rapid test and with the preliminary results showing a 9.3 percent positivity rate, the current campaign results reflect a Covid-19 surge that exceeds the numbers found during an earlier post-Thanksgiving holiday campaign. At that time, 6.4 percent of those being tested with Binax came back positive, according to the final results.
“The rates are alarming, but not unexpected, due to the fact that we are in a surge,” wrote Dr. Diane Havlir, the chief of UCSF’s division of HIV/AIDS, infectious disease, and global medicine, and who has performed Unidos en Salud covid studies since last spring.
The Binax test, which can deliver results in as little as 15 minutes, has allowed the test and research campaign to respond on the same day to get Covid-19 positive residents quarantined and prevent the virus from spreading to others. Diane Jones, a former UCSF HIV nurse, also said that the Binax picks up individuals “early on in the infectious process, when they are most infectious. PCR will capture almost everyone who’s infected but doesn’t differentiate between infectious and non-infectious.”
In the first week the effort has tested 3,184 individuals — on average, more than 600 a day — and 9.3 percent of them, or 297 were positive. When it came to Latinx testers, 10.8 percent were positive, echoing similar trends in previous Unidos en Salud studies.
Those rates compare to a citywide positivity rate of 4.95 percent, a rate that masks how much more Covid-19 some communities confront.
Havlir pointed out that those disparities have been the same since last April when UCSF and the Latino Task Force did their first study.
recap the april study here:
A major goal of the rapid test campaign was to significantly shorten the time between a person getting tested and a positive result ending in a quarantine. Now that people learn they are positive within two hours of getting tested, those who opt in will get contacted and asked if they need any assistance to isolate that same day by a Community Wellness Team member, who then assesses people’s needs, gives advice, and delivers food.
They are offered resources like isolation and quarantine hotels, access to Right to Recover funds when available, and food.
By mid-Saturday, upwards of 150 people asked to be referred and received food and other supplies, said Susana Rojas, a Latino Task Force member who helps coordinate the study’s Community Wellness Teams .
In addition, for covid-positive residents living in households of more than four people, the team offers at home testing for the rest of the household.
Because there are so many positives and so many respondents, and because the time-frame is much shorter, Rojas and her daughter Susy, who coordinates the team, have been working “16-hour days for the past week,” Rojas said.
Some challenges: figuring out how to gather enough fresh food quickly, and making sure members of the same family are put in the same delivery order and under the same case manager. Still, Rojas said they’re not behind except for harder-to-get resources, “like if someone ran out of medicine” and needs someone to pick it up so they can stay isolated.
The consistently high numbers of participants is a bit unusual, for in past campaigns, after the launch day, numbers of participants tended to dwindle. Rojas said she believes it’s due to a variety of factors, the first being that the outreach and established reputation lured more people to the line this time.
“People are being used to getting treated with love and respect,” she said. But also, more people want to be tested given the post-holiday surge, when residents traveled, friends and family gathered, and gathering outdoors in chilly weather was less than appealing. In pre- and post-Thanksgiving testing effort, positivity also shot up.
Director of Public Health Dr. Grant Colfax announced this week that the city is reporting its worst case rate, which can help measure how fast the virus is spreading. As of Saturday, the city reported a total of 28,221 cases and 254 deaths so far.
Especially by January, the effects of the virus now seem to touch almost everyone, Rojas said.” In the beginning, people would say, ‘oh, it’s only one percent.’ Now, it’s like, ‘I know someone who died,’” Rojas said.
While the city has poured extra testing resources and funding into the Latinx community in the past few months, the disease disparities remain, many of which stem from overcrowded housing and frontline work.
The Latinx population is 15 percent in the city, but Latinx residents make up 43 percent of the cases. This figure has decreased somewhat. Throughout 2020, Latinx residents represented 45 to nearly 51 percent of all Covid cases.
The recent surge, however, has hit the Mission and Bayview Hunter’s Point particularly hard. Between Dec. 14 and Jan. 12, DPH reported 822 new cases in the Mission, or 138 new cases per 10,000 residents. Bayview Hunters Point racked up 879 new cases, or 235 new cases per 10,000 residents. The Citywide average over that period was 95 new cases per 10,000 residents.
Jon Jacobo, the head of the health committee at the Latino Task Force, said they are urging the city to also do more testing in Bayview and other impacted communities.
The data from 2020 shows that Latinx residents here were five times more likely to get exposed to covid than any other race.
The rapid testing campaign continues until Jan. 29 on Sundays, Mondays, Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Fridays from 9 a.m. to 3:45 p.m. at 24th and Mission BART Station Plaza. No ID, insurance or appointments are required, though people with insurance are asked to get tested with their provider.