During a Board of Supervisors hearing on Tuesday evening, a city health official said that San Francisco's testing sites have only been administering about 500 COVID-19 tests per day, when they have the combined capacity to do 5,800 tests per day.
Dr. Susan Philip, the Health Department's director of infectious disease prevention and control, said that the two sites — one at Seventh and Brannan and one on the Embarcadero at Piers 30/32 — are currently operating way under their 1,500-tests-per-day capacity.
"We have seen the number of tests increase over the last few days, but you are correct there is a large gap now that we need to close between the tests we could be doing and the tests we are doing," Dr. Philip said. The 5,800 number includes public hospitals and other medical testing sites, as well as the two new free walk-up sites, which remain by appointment only.
The issue may be the messaging. When the City of Hayward opened its free walk-up testing facility several weeks ago, it did so without the appointment or referral requirement right away. The first CityTestSF site opened on April 17, but priority was being given to essential workers and those who wanted tests were being told to call 311 to request one. The Embarcadero site is drive-up and you don't have to leave your car, and the 7th and Brannan site allows walk-ups.
As KPIX reports, testing at the CityTestSF sites remains limited to people who are experiencing symptoms of COVID-19, specifically a fever or cough. Dr. Philip said the symptom criteria may expand to include everything from runny nose to fatigue.
During Tuesday's meeting, Supervisor Matt Haney suggested that the testing should just be open to everyone, even those who may not be showing any symptoms yet. Experts have said that infected individuals are most contagious during the two days before any symptoms present themselves, and they may be able to spread the virus just through exhaling.
"If we can do over 5,000 tests a day we should be doing over 5,000 tests a day," Haney said, per KPIX. "It is absolutely unacceptable to have 500 being done when the capacity is much higher than that." Haney further pointed out that homeless people and those without internet access currently can not schedule an appointment, as required at the CityTestSF sites, through a website.
If you think you're experiencing symptoms, schedule a test here. Everyone arriving for a test is asked to wear a mask, and if you have insurance, you will be asked for that information. But otherwise you will not be charged for the test.
Photo courtesy of SFO/Twitter