City to add 1,400 testing slots at three COVID-19 testing sites and an expansion of CityTestSF; testing to be located in communities disproportionately impacted by COVID-19.
SAN FRANCISCO – Mayor London N. Breed on Wednesday, July 22 announced new strategies for COVID-19 testing prioritization and availability to address the surge in COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations in San Francisco. San Francisco’s public COVID-19 testing program will focus on people who have symptoms consistent with the virus, close contacts of confirmed cases, and people prioritized by the Department of Public Health such as those impacted by an outbreak.
In addition, San Francisco’s public COVID-19 testing program will continue to serve first responders, activated Disaster Service Workers, people who must leave their homes to work in San Francisco, people without health insurance, and communities disproportionately impacted by this global pandemic. People with private health insurance should continue to request tests from their health care providers.
To support this effort, the CityTestSF site at the Embarcadero will add 400 new appointments per day to ensure that first responders, including City Disaster Service Workers, have access to testing. Additionally, two new mobile testing sites that can each conduct up to 250 tests per day will be added to the City’s current testing assets, and will be deployed in neighborhoods disproportionately affected by the pandemic. The placement of these new sites will be determined in consultation with community members. A new long-term test site also will be added in the southeastern part of the City, starting with approximately 500 more tests per day for individuals most in need of testing.
“San Francisco has been exceeding our goals for daily COVID-19 testing, but like cities around the country we’re now facing challenges due to increasing demand,” said Mayor Breed. “Since we issued the first Stay Home Order, there have been over 29 testing sites set up throughout the City with nearly 200,000 tests performed. Our public CityTestSF sites are conducting thousands of tests per day and we’re continuing to expand capacity, but we need private providers to step up and do their part so that our public resources remain available for those most in need.”
Consistent prioritization of testing in congregate settings such as skilled nursing facilities has greatly contributed to San Francisco’s achievement of a fivefold lower death rate than those in comparable counties. San Francisco has consistently exceeded its target of conducting 1,800 tests daily, reaching an average of 3,212 daily tests this week.
“We have made tremendous progress, but the data show that we must prioritize specific populations for testing in order to flatten the curve again. Paired with contact tracing, that is the best way to find cases and subsequently reduce further exposures and infections,” said Dr. Grant Colfax, Director of Health. “New cases are up fourfold from where they were one month ago, and hospitalizations are currently higher than they were at the initial rise of the pandemic in San Francisco. The City needs to continue adapting and improving our prevention and response efforts, including testing. I’m grateful to our many partners in this work, as it will take all of us to reach our goal of universal access to testing for San Franciscans.”
In early July, a combination of increased testing demand paired with a delay in national laboratory results created a need to reevaluate existing testing resources in the City and determine how testing capacity could be improved, reprioritized and expanded.
“Containing the spread of COVID-19 requires a significant increase in testing and fast turnaround times for results,” said Caroline Savello, Chief Commercial Officer, Color.
“Working with the City of San Francisco, Color and our clinical partners have built one of the most efficient testing programs in California. We’ve provided over 100,000 fast, reliable results through CityTestSF, and built the foundation that will help meet changing public health needs.”
“With the recent surge of the virus across the country and in the Bay Area, increased access to testing throughout our communities is paramount. We appreciate the commitment of the Mayor’s office in continuing to lead the response in battling this pandemic,” said Eren Bali, Co-Founder and CEO of Carbon Health. “We are excited to expand our partnership with the City, which will provide us with an opportunity to add hundreds of new jobs for our local healthcare workers while increasing access points for thousands of San Franciscans.”
Next Steps for COVID-19 Testing Improvements in San Francisco
Issued a Health Order requiring private health care providers to expand testing services
San Francisco’s Health Officer has ordered private health care providers to test people with symptoms, close contacts of confirmed cases, and anyone whose test is recommended by the Department of Public Health. The new Health Order also recommends that private health care providers test people whose work outside the home puts them at higher risk of exposure to COVID-19.
Reassess existing testing assets and revise testing priorities
Starting this week, the City is assessing existing City and privately-operated testing facilities throughout San Francisco to determine where capacity can be expanded particularly for priority populations. Priorities include close contacts to a confirmed positive case as identified by contact tracers, those showing symptoms, and those prioritized by the Department of Public Health.
Expand community testing to locations that show recent increases in transmission
Starting next week, the Department of Public Health will expand alternative testing sites in partnership with the San Francisco Health Network (SFHN) Primary Care and community partners to provide testing based on existing health care and community infrastructure. This continued focus on community will include the launch of two CityTestSF Mobile assets which will be deployed to areas that show intensive active transmission of COVID-19. This will allow San Francisco’s response efforts to follow the path of the virus throughout the community and will decrease the burden of COVID-19 in the City as a whole.
Expand testing for priority populations in areas with less access to testing
The southeastern section of San Francisco includes the neighborhoods of highest transmission of COVID-19 and populations of highest risk of severe outcomes. Improving access to testing decreases the amount of time that individuals may be unknowingly spreading the virus throughout their communities. Therefore, the City is currently assessing potential locations for a new CityTestSF site in the southeastern quadrant of the City. Once finalized, the location will mimic the existing CityTestSF site in SoMa and will have the ability to begin testing 500 people per day.
The new testing sites will be created in partnership with Color and Carbon Health. San Francisco will begin implementation of the above next steps for testing improvements this week as part of the City’s response to the surge of COVID-19 in our community. (From SF Mayor’s Press Office)