The lime-green tents offering the novelty of $5 cash to take a COVID-19 test have agreed to leave town after taking heat from City Attorney David Chiu, who claims the tents were fueling the local drug trade.
It maybe should not have been a surprise, when San Francisco’s COVID testing site system melted down amidst the early 2022 Omicron variant surge, that shady, unlicensed COVID testing sites started popping up in makeshift tent structures across the city. SF City Attorney David Chiu was successfully able to whack-a-mole them out of existence.
But another more brazen set of wholly unlicensed, lime-green tents started turning up in April of this year, offering people $5 cash to take a COVID test, and using pretty much no PPE.
Several COVID testing sites that popped up on the city's sidewalks this week appear to be unscrupulous operations that are not properly licensed. https://t.co/2CmGsVtLQx— San Francisco Chronicle (@sfchronicle) April 14, 2023
And once again, according to the Examiner, Chiu has also chased these testing sites out of town. The green tents were apparently operated by a company called Gentech (which cleverly sounds like Genentech, but is not), and according to a release from Chiu’s office, that company “has agreed to cease all virus testing operations in San Francisco.”
The company behind the green COVID-19 testing tents in San Francisco has agreed to cease operations in The City.— SF Examiner (@sfexaminer) November 16, 2023
Gentech had come under scrutiny from city officials.https://t.co/pbU9PeplPi
And Chiu seems to think they may have had a hand in the local illicit drug trade. “Many of the testing tents operated near open air drug markets, and the cash payments appeared to facilitate drug sales and activity,” the release adds.
These green tents set off alarm bells, not only because of the $5 cash offer, but also because their staff was always consistently unmasked and did not use any protective gear. Supervisor Dean Preston also received complaints from constituents who took the tests and never received any results. And the tents were collecting people’ personal data, likely to sell in some sort of data brokering operation.
“I’m relieved that these operators, who have targeted people in my district for months, will no longer play fast and loose with people’s health and privacy,” Preston added in the press release.
Earlier this month, the Board of Supervisors unanimously passed Preston’s Safe Swab Ordinance, which effectively makes those Gentech testing sites illegal. According to a separate release from Preston’s office, that new law “will ensure that sites can be shut down if they fail to obtain proper permitting, follow basic patient privacy laws, or observe basic hygiene protocols.”
Image: Joe Kukura, SFist