Early in the week there were a lot of concerned statements from city and state leaders around the country about how the loud and often tightly packed protests against police brutality could become vectors for coronavirus infection and spread. Governor Gavin Newsom echoed those in statements on Thursday, and today we learn that San Francisco has opened a new free testing site as St. Mary's Cathedral (1111 Gough Street) specifically for people who have attended protests.
The mobile testing site opened Friday at noon in partnership with Project Baseline, and the city is asking anyone who wants to be tested to sign up on that website first.
Unlike previously established testing sites and guidelines, the new testing site does not require anyone to be exhibiting symptoms — anyone who attended a protest and wants a test can get one.
As SF Health Officer Dr. Tomás Aragón said to the Chronicle, "I think everyone in public health is concerned [about the protests]." And earlier this week a medical historian compared the mass events to the bond parades in 1918 that were seen as super-spreading events for the influenza pandemic.
“The risk depends on how many people in the crowed are carrying the coronavirus,” Aragón said. “If very few people are carrying, you’re probably going to be fine. But we don’t know, and that’s the problem. The few people that might have it, they’re the ones you hope wear their mask."
"If you’re not [concerned], you’re not paying attention to the epidemiology, to the virulence of this disease," Gov. Newsom said on Thursday.
There were over 2,700 new cases of COVID-19 recorded in California on Thursday, and daily upticks have been in the range of 1 to 3 percent since mid-May as testing has ramped up statewide. Meanwhile, the average daily increase in confirmed cases in the Bay Area has been 1.7 percent since May 1, while for the month of April it was an average of 4 percent per day.
Speaking today to the Chronicle, Aragón said, "Public health authorities are concerned and we’re hoping it doesn’t set us back. We’re a region of 7 million people. If there are a few thousand people at a protest, you hope a few thousand [people] won’t change the epidemiology of millions of people. We’ll see."