Close to a hundred Mission residents line up during a free pop up COVID-19 test site at 24 Mission Bart Station. NOV 19-24, 2020 Mike Kai Chen

Starting Sunday at 9 a.m., UCSF and the Latino Task Force will launch five-day-a-week rapid testing at the 24th Street BART Plaza that will also collect data on participants’ attitudes and preferences around vaccination.

The testing and research campaign will run for three weeks, and aims to test 600 people a day. 

It will use the BinaxNow rapid tests, which take 15 minutes to process. The UCSF/Latino Task Force collaboration, known as Unidos en Salud, used the BinaxNow rapid tests most recently in pre- and post-Thanksgiving campaigns. They used it in addition to the conventional PCR test that takes at least 24 hours to process, a two-test strategy that allowed them to assess the efficacy of Binax against the conventional test. 

At the end of that campaign, Dr. Diane Havlir, the chief of UCSF’s Division of HIV/AIDS, Infectious Disease, and Global Medicine, and the lead researcher in the Unidos campaigns, said that Binax tests had successfully detected 99 percent of those who were highly infectious — with or without symptoms.

 “And, essentially, we have practically no false positives,” she said.

Since its April research campaign in the Mission District, UCSF and the Latino Task Force have tested thousands of residents while also collecting new data and mapping out a strategy and protocols for how the city might better use its testing and response resources. 

Deciding to rely solely on the Binax rapid test is one outcome of its previous studies. The result is that the team will be able to get covid-positive residents into quarantine within hours instead of days.   

The campaign will give covid-positive residents results in less than two hours. It will also refine the same-day response of “education, isolation gift cards and immediate linkage to Department of Public Health contact tracers,” Diane Jones, a former HIV nurse at Zuckerberg San Francisco General Hospital, who has been a key figure in the testing campaigns, wrote in an email. 

In addition, UCSF researcher Dr. Carina Marquez will have a team ready to deliver testing to the households of those people who test positive. Marquez used this strategy during the Thanksgiving testing campaigns. 

Vaccines will also be high on the campaign’s survey questions. 

“We want to hear from the community about how they are viewing vaccines, their beliefs, concerns, and education needs,” said Jones.  

“This whole project is essentially a bridge campaign with rapid testing, rapid response but also to begin to bridge toward vaccines,” said Jon Jacobo, head of the health committee for the Latino Task Force. 

Jones said the researchers will be asking how residents want to receive the vaccine – at a doctor’s office, a clinic, or a mass community vaccination site. Although the 24th Street BART Plaza would be too small, other large Mission sites such as Garfield Park could work, she said. 

The researchers will also be sending positive results to the Chan Zuckerberg BioHub, where co-director Dr. Joe Derisi will be studying the strains specifically to look for penetration by the more infectious strain from the UK.

Bilingual flyers announcing the tests urge residents and workers to make testing part of their “covid prevention plan.”  

Jacobo said a mobilization effort began on Thursday and will continue through Saturday to reach residents in such hard-hit census tracts as those between 23rd and Cesar Chavez streets.

“By this point, most of the community is comfortable with what we are doing but we also field questions,” said Jacobo. “We’re here to test folks in the community, and while we don’t want to discourage anyone, much like the city sites we are trying to target uninsured, essential workers.” 

“Get tested often, wear a mask and keep six feet or more distance,” the flyers urge. 

How often should residents get tested? Workers employed at the Latino Task Force’s Hub get tested weekly. 

The San Francisco Department of Public Health has yet to issue guidelines on how often workers should get tested. On its main testing site, it recommends that residents have at least one symptom before signing up for one of the city’s tests. 

The Unidos en Salud testing and research campaign will commence on January 10 and run three weeks on Sundays, Mondays, Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Fridays, from 9 a.m. to 3:45 p.m. 

Lydia Chávez

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

Join the Conversation

1 Comment

  1. Thank you for your ongoing excellent reporting–it’s sad that the Chronicle and other news outlets have not picked up very well on your in-depth stories. Had they, perhaps DPH would have felt pressure to increase outreach and testing in the Mission/ Latinx neighborhoods much earlier. Regardless, I am inspred by the excellent public health and community work going on in the Mission now. Please keep us informed!

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *