Hundreds of millions of dollars have been set aside in San Francisco’s budget for COVID-19 prevention, testing and treatment, Mayor London Breed announced this morning at a press conference in San Francisco. Over the next year, the Mayor’s Office has allocated $185 million for health care operations, $183 million for housing and shelter, $62 million for food distribution and $16 million for communications.
San Francisco residents have requested four times the rent assistance City Hall can provide, indicating a widening gap between resident needs and the city’s ability to help. The city is in the process of giving out $7 million to help people cover rent — but it has received more than $28 million in requests from over 6,800 applications since this spring, according to the Mayor’s Office of Housing and Community Development, which is disbursing the money from the Give2SF COVID-19 Response and Recovery Fund.
Nearly 2,500 cases of verbal and physical attacks against Asian Americans were reported between March 19 and July 22 to a tracking project called Stop AAPI Hate, a group representing Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders. Dr. Russell Jeung, chair and professor of Asian American Studies at San Francisco State University, has called on local, state and federal governments to reject racist rhetoric and commit to anti-racist messaging.
When Mayor London Breed announced a strict shelter-in-place order on March 16 in response to the COVID-19 outbreak, health facilities scrambled to identify ways to safely see patients. For addiction medicine doctors, this presented a particularly difficult challenge: Patients engaged in medication-assisted treatment for opioid addiction must be seen frequently, often every few days. Regular doctor visits are not just helpful for people’s recovery but until that point had been required by the federal government for the dispensing of certain opioid addiction medications. As doctors across San Francisco switched to telehealth visits — talking to patients over the phone or through video chat — an unexpected shift took place. Missed appointments, a norm before the shelter-in-place order, became rare.
San Francisco has set a goal of communicating with 90% of the people here who test positive for the novel coronavirus and also reaching 90% of their close contacts. But in part due to a delayed trove of test data, the city has reached just 73% of the people for whom it received positive test results over the previous two weeks and 84% of those peoples’ close contacts. In contact tracing, health workers identify and reach out to people who have an infectious disease, then try to determine with whom they have been in close contact and to whom they may have transmitted the disease. Then they try to reach those potentially exposed people. When case investigators and contact tracers talk with someone who has tested positive or potentially been exposed, they ask questions, but they also make testing and resource referrals, and give directions on how to try to stop the disease from spreading further.
Like most of the homeless residents on Willow Street Tuesday morning, Leif Skorochod was headed for either a city-sanctioned tent camp or the barracks-style homeless shelter at Moscone Convention Center after city workers arrived early that morning and gave them a choice: Accept shelter or leave. Homeless Outreach Team members discussed placement options with tent residents while Public Works crews tossed items into truck beds. At least two residents received hotel rooms because they have underlying health conditions. The rest of those the Public Press spoke to were either headed to Moscone or a sanctioned camp site.
San Francisco’s COVID-19 infection rate is leveling off, but Public Health Director Dr. Grant Colfax said the growth rate is still much higher than he would like to see. “We are finding about 90 new cases of COVID-19 every day. That number has started to drop a bit from its high point two weeks ago, but it is still very concerning. Anything above 50 cases a day continues to put us in the red zone on high alert. And we have been there for about the last six weeks.”
The Great Plates meal delivery program for seniors sheltering in place has been extended through Sept.
A challenge to San Francisco’s eviction moratorium lost in court Monday. The San Francisco Apartment Association and three co-plaintiffs sued the City and County of San Francisco in June to overturn legislation that took eviction permanently off the table for unpaid rents due during the pandemic. They argued that it was an unconstitutional taking of property and pre-empted state law. San Francisco Superior Court Judge Charles Haines heard arguments in the case Friday before ruling in favor of the city. “This is a resounding victory for vulnerable tenants in San Francisco,” said Supervisor Dean Preston, the legislation’s author, on Twitter.
San Francisco’s housing and homelessness service providers worry that City Hall’s budget decisions will leave them unprepared to face an expected wave of housing displacement. Interviews with staffers at a dozen nonprofits found that calls for assistance have increased by at least 30% and at some organizations by as much as 200% since March when the pandemic forced San Francisco residents to shelter in place amid a recession characterized by widespread income loss. Many providers are concerned expected city budget cuts will hobble their ability to provide vital aid like rental assistance, legal representation in eviction cases, food and emergency shelter, just when clients need help the most. One likely outcome of expected cutbacks they predicted: a worsening of the city’s already daunting homelessness crisis. “We’re all bracing ourselves for a huge growth in the numbers of those who are living on the streets, no question,” said Sara Shortt, director of public policy and community outreach at the Community Housing Partnership, a supportive housing nonprofit.
The number of people hospitalized with COVID-19 in San Francisco is rising rapidly and the city is facing “a major surge.” Department of Public Health Director Dr. Grant Colfax said. “In April, we experienced a surge of COVID-19 cases, which at its peak, saw 94 San Franciscans in the hospital. That number dropped to just 26 patients six weeks ago. Today, it’s 107.”
Dr. Colfax said the growth rate of new infections is alarming. “It took us 38 days to go from 2000 to 3000 cases, it took us half as long to go from 3000 to 4000.