The Director of Public Health today called the mass vaccination of residents across the city an “unprecedented undertaking,” and said the city will begin this week to vaccinate residents 65 and older who are part of its clinic system.
“We are working to ensure this group has access to vaccines as quickly as possible, and we will start offering vaccines to these patients at Zuckerberg San Francisco Hospital, Southeast Health Center, Maxine Hall and our Covid Command Center clinic this week,” said Dr. Grant Colfax.
While the city is responsible for vaccinating patients within the public health system and those without a provider, he said other San Francisco residents will be vaccinated by their health care providers.
However, in the late-morning press conference in which Mayor London Breed also announced some $62 million in new covid relief for small businesses, Colfax also said the city was working with providers and community groups to establish larger vaccination sites.
“Getting these shots in the arm will save lives,” he said. “Our goal in the health department is to ensure that vaccines are safely provided to as many people as possible, as quickly as possible and as equitably as possible.”
Colfax said the majority of healthcare workers included in the first phase of vaccine distribution are being vaccinated by their employers. Already, 13 of the city’s 18 skilled nursing facilities have offered residents the vaccine, with the remainder expected to be completed this week, he said.
The city is also working with healthcare providers and pharmacies to scale up vaccine delivery, as well as developing plans to create high-volume vaccination sites.
The “covid command center is working with healthcare providers to stand up large vaccination sites where providers can efficiently and effectively serve their patients in partnership with the health department.”
Colfax said that Marilyn Carroll, the city’s director of emergency management, is identifying possible vaccination sites, “including, specifically, in neighborhoods with the most highly impacted and vulnerable communities.”
“We are working to ensure that vulnerable populations and those who do not have access to private health care, as well as those who are in the most impacted community, are prioritized for vaccine,” Colfax said.
To that end, he added, the city “is partnering with community organizations such as the Latino Task Force and with UCSF to offer vaccines at community sites in neighborhoods with the highest Covid-19 prevalence…”
Those neighborhoods include Bayview Hunters Point, Visitacion Valley, the Tenderloin and the Mission District.
At present, the Latino Task Force and UCSF researchers are conducting a three-week rapid testing and research campaign at the 24th Street BART Plaza. Organizers there have talked about a possible vaccination site at John O’Connell High School or Garfield Park.
Mayor London Breed’s relief plan, announced today, will nearly triple San Francisco’s overall support for small businesses during the pandemic through a combination of grants and very-low-interest to zero-interest loans. The relief will be targeted toward businesses that have not been able to open their doors or have been severely limited in the services they can provide, such as restaurants, gyms and nail salons.
The proposed grant program will offer grants between $5,000 to $20,000 for specific types of small businesses, such as businesses in high-need neighborhoods operated by those who have had less success accessing existing programs. Breed said the city aims to get the grants out quickly, starting in February.
The loans program will offer longer-term support for businesses, especially larger small businesses, like restaurants, that have often been left out of relief programs. The program will offer low-interest and zero-interest loans of up to $250,000, as well as a microloan program for very small businesses otherwise unable to borrow money.
The program comes in the wake of surging COVID-19 cases. As of today, 27,000 cases of COVID-19 have been diagnosed in San Francisco since the beginning of the pandemic. 249 people are hospitalized with COVID, and 235 have died, according to Breed.
“Supporting these businesses is so critical as we work to flatten the curve and get people vaccinated,” Breed said.
While the city is still experiencing a post-holiday case surge, the rate of increase in cases is not as large as the post-Thanksgiving surge, according to Dr. Grant Colfax, San Francisco’s director of public health. After Thanksgiving, the city saw an approximately 70 percent increase in cases. The post-December holiday surge is an approximately 20 percent increase.
Breed said the lower rate of increase “is some good news, and it means, hopefully, that people are following the health orders. However, we started this holiday at a more precarious point, so even a slower rate of increase is seriously concerning.”
“The Bay Area as a whole, like pretty much the entire state, remains in a very difficult position,” she said.