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Coronavirus Update: SF Health Director Warns Of COVID-19 Outbreak At Laguna Honda Hospital

SAN FRANCISCO (CBS SF) --  San Francisco Director of Public Health Dr. Grant Colfax Friday warned of an oncoming outbreak of coronavirus at Laguna Honda Hospital following news of new infections at the hospital, as well as a new case at Zuckerberg San Francisco General hospitals.

Colfax made the announcement during a press conference updating the city's response to the COVID-19 outbreak.


"I must say, and I am sad to say this, we do expect an outbreak. Our plan for the outbreak includes testing affected staff and residents, which is already underway," said Colfax. "We have begun bringing in additional resources, including staff and expertise, on long-term care, infection control, and infectious disease from our own DPH system, but also reaching out to key partners including UCSF and Sutter Health to strengthen our response."

Colfax said that the number of cases at the Laguna Honda facility had grown to include six staff members and one patient as of Thursday evening. All were in good condition with contact investigations underway.

Laguna Honda, one of the largest skilled nursing facilities in the United States, is a 750-bed facility where the majority of the residents are over 65 years old with serious health conditions.

The entire campus had been quarantined starting Wednesday evening. The current lockdown means that no one is allowed to leave the premises and those who do leave the building will no longer be allowed to re-enter the hospital until at least April 7, the hospital said.

"We have begun bringing in additional resources, including staff and experts on long-term care, infection control, and infectious disease," Colfax said of the response.

Colfax said that the outbreak at Laguna Honda was not a surprise.

"The pattern of the disease clearly shows that long-term care facilities and their residents are particularly vulnerable to the disease and the spread," Colfax said. "Simply put, the more testing we do, the more cases we will find."

Colfax also said that a staff member at Zuckerberg San Francisco General had been confirmed to have COVID-19. The person works in the emergency room of the hospital and is currently self-isolating at home. A thorough contact investigation is underway for that patient.

Colfax said the city's health department was issuing new guidelines "above and beyond" the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and would provide isolation masks for all health care workers and patients in at risk-settings, even as he acknowledged a shortage of masks and other personal protective equipment.

"As we continue to plan, predict and respond, sometimes we are ahead, sometimes we are right on time, and sometimes we may be a beat behind. But so far, we have been preparing for just what is happening now. And we will continue to use data, science and facts to be as proactive as possible to protect our community and reduce the harm that the coronavirus causes," said Colfax.

Earlier Friday, city officials confirmed 56 new positive tests for the coronavirus and the city's third death from the illness.

On a positive note, Colfax said that the city's testing capacity was on the increase.

Breed also announced that tests kits for the novel coronavirus will be prioritized for health care workers and first responders in San Francisco. 

Breed said the city's healthcare workers and first responders will now be able to access COVID-19 tests through their Kaiser Permanente or Blue Shield insurance plans via their primary care doctors.

"Now, thanks to Kaiser and Blue Shield, we will be able to provide testing for the healthcare workers who are on the frontline and working with patients who have been infected, as well as many of our public safety officials; our firefighters, police officers and those who are on the frontline," Breed said.

During her address, San Francisco Mayor London Breed praised residents for their compliance, but reiterated that people should not be congregating in public parks and warned that police would be monitoring popular public spaces to make sure people were adhering to social distancing.

The mayor said that if behavior did not shift, especially during weekends when the activity has increased, parks might have to be closed completely. Parking lots at Ocean Beach, Baker Beach and Crissy Field will remain closed.

San Francisco Police Chief Bill Scott confirmed that the department would be on the lookout for social gatherings in public parks and concentrate patrols on problem areas like Dolores Park, Marina Green and the Panhandle of Golden Gate Park.

Wilson Walker contributed to this story.

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