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Day 1 of COVID-19 testing in the Mission District
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*Editor’s note: Catherine Stites is a journalism student in SF State’s Journalism 575 Community Media this spring. Taught by professor Jon Funabiki, the class is a collaboration with El Tecolote.

With San Francisco’s Mission District having the highest number of positive COVID-19 cases, free testing for the coronavirus began on the morning of April 25 for residents living in the section of the neighborhood between 23rd Street to Cesar Chavez and South Van Ness to Harrison Street. 

This area of the Mission was selected because it was second densest in San Francisco, and for its high population of Latinx residents, who are being disproportionately affected by the novel coronavirus. 

One possible explnation as to why this is happening is that a large portion of this community is undocumented. 

“The immigrant population can accept medical services, offers of hotels to isolate and quarantine, free testing, etc. And it will not be accounted against them if they ever seek to adjust their status,” District 9 Supervisor Hillary Ronen said in a press conference Saturday morning. Ronen also attributed the expensiveness of San Francisco and how some families double or triple a capacity of a home to survive. “That type of congregate living is precisely where we found a lot of cases of COVID-19 spreading and spreading spreading fast,” she said. 

Other reasons for why San Francisco’s immigrant population is being impacted is that they don’t receive unemployment benefits or their $1,200 stimulus check, which would temporarily assist people to shelter-in-place without working.

People living in the area slated for testing can still sign up online or register onsite. As of the morning of April 25, over 2,000 members of the community had registered for the free testing, and the goal of the campaign is to have over 5,000 people tested. There are also plans to keep testing this same community as shelter-in-place restrictrictions are lifted. 

Testing is being held at four locations over the course of four days. Garfield Park, Parque Niños Unidos, Leonard Flynn Elementary School, and Cesar Chavez Elementary School (Saturday only) were the sites chosen to conduct the testing

“We are all affected by this pandemic, but we know that its impact will not be felt equally or equitably in all communities,” said  Kirsten Bibbins-Domingo, MD, PhD, Vice Dean for Population Health and Health Equity and Chair of Epidemiology and Biostatistics in the UCSF School of Medicine. “The numbers tell us that Latino and African American communities are amongst the groups disproportionately affected by COVID-19 around the country and across our state.”

As of April 25, 29 percent of the confirmed cases of COVID-19 in San Francisco belong to its Latinx residents, and five percent for the city’s African American community. 

“We have no treatment right now. So what do we need? We need knowledge and action,” said Diane Havlir, MD, chief of the Division of HIV, Infectious Diseases and Global Medicine at UCSF. “And that really is the purpose of this study, to understand and respond to COVID-19 in our city.”

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