San Francisco To Reopen Mass Coronavirus Testing Site Amid Delta Surge

San Francisco will reopen a mass coronavirus testing site in SoMa on Wednesday amid a troubling rise in cases — mostly among the unvaccinated — and a surge in demand for tests.

The site at Seventh and Brannan streets will be able to administer 500 tests per day from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m., seven days a week by appointment only. That brings San Francisco’s total test capacity to about 5,000 a day, as schools reopen and people continue mingling indoors despite the surge in cases.

The South of Market test site, located in an empty parking lot and staffed by Carbon Health, first opened in April 2020. It moved to the Alemany Farmers’ Market in November — a site that is still open Monday through Friday. But now, as the highly infectious delta variant leads to about 230 new cases a day, city officials said they needed another high-volume test site.

The city is running about 30 sites where people don’t need health insurance to get a test, but many are only open a few days a week for a few hours at a time. When the SoMa test site opens this week, it will be one of the biggest in the city and the only one open seven days a week.

“We know that the most important thing people can do to keep themselves and their friends and family safe is to get vaccinated, but with the delta variant here and cases at a higher level than we’d like, testing remains an important part of our strategy to slow the spread of this virus,” Mayor London Breed said in a statement.

Meanwhile, the health department also plans to issue an order this week that requires large health care facilities in the city — like Kaiser and UCSF —to provide tests to their patients. The department is testing five to 10 times more people a day than the private health system, according to the mayor’s office.

The increased test capacity comes as the city struggles against a fourth major surge in COVID-19 and again requires people to wear masks inside. While some fully vaccinated people have caught breakthrough infections, cases are significantly more common — and much more deadly— among the unvaccinated.

Though the city is expanding access to tests, public health officials say the best way to avoid a severe case is to get vaccinated. About 80% of the eligible population is vaccinated in San Francisco, and officials are scrambling to convince the holdouts to finally get the shot.

Starting Friday, customers will have to show proof of full vaccination for an array of indoor activities, like going to bars, restaurants and entertainment venues. All city employees without a medical or religious exemption will also have to be vaccinated against the coronavirus after the shots are approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

“We are responding to this fourth surge in COVID-19 by doing what we know works best — and that is vaccinations, indoor masking and expanding our testing capacity once again with this new high-volume testing site,” Dr. Grant Colfax, director of the Department of Public Health, said in a statement. “COVID will be with us in some form for the foreseeable future.”



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