*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.
Volunteers have been knocking on doors and flyers have been up this past week to alert people that they should get tested for COVID-19 if they live in a designated area of the Mission District.
The testing, which is in partnership with San Francisco General Hospital and University of California, San Francisco (UCSF) and the Latino Task Force for COVID-19, aims to screen an entire section of the community for the virus to see if they have it, or have ever had it.
The coronavirus pandemic has hit San Francisco’s Latinx community the hardest. Of San Francisco’s current confirmed cases, 28 percent are Hispanic/Latinx. The disparity is alarming, given that only 15 percent of San Francisco’s total population is Latinx.
The top number of confirmed cases in San Francisco was in the Mission District’s 94110 zip code. That area had 184 confirmed cases, the highest number of cases per zip code in San Francisco. The City currently has 1,340 COVID-19 positive cases reported, and 22 deaths so far.
“It is not a mystery why neighborhoods like the Mission and the Latinx community are among the hardest hit by this pandemic. Many of the people who live here are the essential employees and workers who have kept our city running during this dangerous time. And the same systemic problems of poverty and racism are made worse during times of crisis,” said District 9 Supervisor Hillary Ronen, who represents the Mission, in a statement. “This remarkable partnership between UCSF, DPH, the Latino Task Force for COVID-19, and my office will not only help identify and connect those affected to care and supportive services, but it will inform our city’s overall response to this crisis.”
To combat this rising number of cases in this in the Mission, the section of the neighborhood between 23rd Street to Cesar Chavez and South Van Ness to Harrison Street has been selected for testing. This specific area was chosen for it having the highest concentration of Latinos within this particular census area, according to Jon Jacobo, the chair of the UCSF study committee and a member of the Latino Task Force on COVID-19.
The testing will happen over the course of four days from April 25-April 28.
Jacobo compared the rapidness that this testing came together like “flying the plane and building it all at once.” Something that traditionally would take six months took the committee and UCSF about six days to put together.
Those being tested have to live in the designated area and sign up to be tested. But for residents who are unhoused, they will be able to get tested on April 29.
If someone tests positive for the virus, the team will reach out to them with that result, and will keep in contact to make sure that the symptoms don’t progress. The goal is for test results to be available within 72 hours, said Jacobo, and that people get the medical treatment they need.
“There is also the component of trying to help them through that process of getting it and then also striving towards resources and support through actually having COVID,” Jacobo said.
The testing includes a nasal swab and a fingerstick collection. One test checks if a person has the virus currently, and the other tests if a person has previously had it, because people can be asymptomatic, but that antibody test takes two to three weeks for the results to come back.
“If the country wants to reopen—what we’re doing here in this census tract—is what we essentially have to do throughout the country,” said Jacobo. “Which is providing a test to everyone, then contact tracing and isolating the people that have it.”
Contact tracing is the “ability to trace all contacts of reported cases” according to John Hopkin Center for Health Security. This is a key to helping stop the spread of the virus and to help identify other individuals who possibly have the virus as well.
Over 5,000 members of the Mission community are expected to be tested over the course of the four days. There is a possibility that testing will be offered to those outside of the designated area and Unidos En Salud says to check back on April 27 for additional testing slots for April 28, if they can increase capacity.
Social distancing protocols will be in place, along with the latest policy to wear face coverings in public spaces.