Anyone who has to leave their house to work in a grocery store, hardware store, pharmacy, restaurant, or now garden store or nursery can now go and get a free COVID-19 test at one of the city's two walk-up testing sites.
We heard last week that the two CityTestSF sites in SoMa and on the Embarcadero were operating way under capacity, likely because people don't know that free testing is available, and because they were still screening people for symptoms to determine test eligibility. We know that many people are asymptomatic with this virus, however, and we know that when they are symptomatic, people are at their most contagious in the two days prior to showing symptoms. So, now the city is extending testing eligibility to all essential workers who want tests, whenever they want them.
"San Francisco’s essential workers have kept our city going for months now during the pandemic response," Mayor London Breed said in a statement Monday. "They continue to show up every day, often at great personal risk, and I am so grateful to them. Now that we have our testing program established and are certain that we can test everyone with symptoms, we want to extend to them the opportunity to get tested more easily—for peace of mind and to take action if needed to protect themselves and their families.”
Supervisor Matt Haney, in whose district the two testing sites live, was pushing last week to open testing up to all SF residents, but clearly the Public Health Department is taking a phased approach to this and is prioritizing essential workers first.
If the testing sites continue to be fairly quiet, the criteria for getting a test will likely get looser.
"To achieve our goal of universal access, we have continually expanded testing, based on where the need is greatest, and the availability of resources,” said Dr. Colfax in a statement about the new rule change. “As the circle keeps widening, we now can test more people without symptoms, including close contacts, residents and staff of skilled nursing facilities and essential workers."
Last week the city also announced it would begin a program of biweekly testing for all residents and staff of nursing homes in the city.
Including existing testing facilities at SF General and other facilities, the city now has the capacity to test 5,800 people per day, according to Dr. Susan Philip, the Health Department's director of infectious disease prevention and control. She told the Board of Supervisors last week that the two walk-up sites had a combined capacity to do 1,500 tests per day, and were currently nowhere near reaching that number.
According to the city's COVID-19 dashboard, 25,165 people have been tested in San Francisco to date. Of those, there have been 1,624 positive cases.
Essential workers who want to schedule a test at one of these sites can do so by dialing 311. The 7th and Brannan site is easy for walk-ups, while the Embarcadero site allows people to pull up in cars and receive tests curbside.