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Coronavirus Update: San Francisco Health Officials Opening Drive-Thru Testing Sites In Chinatown, Sunset District

SAN FRANCISCO (CBS SF) -- Mayor London Breed announced Friday the city would be opening three new mobile coronavirus testing sites next week in Chinatown, the Sunset District and near Oracle Park.

The sites will be run in collaboration with North East Medical Services and Brown & Toland Physicians. They will be open to the public, but patients will need a clinical referral to be tested.

Two new sites will open in the Sunset District and Chinatown early next week. A Brown & Toland site, meanwhile, was scheduled to open at the end of next week near Oracle Park.

The three new sites will be added to four COVID-19 drive-thru locations currently available in the city through Kaiser Permanente, UCSF, One Medical and Sutter CPMC.

Additional testing capacity was also coming from the San Francisco Department of Public Health Laboratory -- which has tripled the number of tests it can process in a day.

By automating certain parts of the process, officials said, the lab can now run 150 tests per day, up from 50. The testing turnaround time is one to two days and typically much faster than other laboratories, which allows the city to take quicker action to conduct contact investigations and minimize spread.

With the expanded availability of testing, officials were expecting a significant job in the number of people testing positive for the virus.

"We expect to see higher numbers of positive cases with the increasing capability of COVID-19 testing," said San Francisco Director of Health Grant Colfax. "I want to be clear that not everyone needs to get tested. There are still national shortages of testing material, which means we need to prioritize our tests to those on the frontline, and for those most vulnerable and at-risk from the virus."

He said the most effective way to stop the growing spread of the virus was not testing. It was social distancing.

"I cannot stress enough that getting tested is not the most effective way to stop the spread," he said. "The most effective action you can take is to stay at home, and if you must go out to follow all social distancing recommendations."

Colfax's department also announced Friday that it reached an agreement with the city workforce's two largest private health service providers -- Kaiser Permanente and Blue Shield of California -- to prioritize COVID-19 tests for first responders and health care workers showing symptoms of the virus.

"The prioritization of COVID-19 testing for frontline workers, along with people who are most vulnerable, will help us make sure our health care system can continue serving the public and taking care of people who need help," Breed said.

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