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Coronavirus Update: San Francisco Paid $30,000 A Day For Empty Hotel Rooms During Pandemic

SAN FRANCISCO (CBS SF) -- For weeks, nearly 1,000 hotel rooms meant for frontline workers have sat empty in San Francisco.

The city leased them when they saw how overwhelmed New York City was when its surge hit. The move has come at the cost of about $30,000 a day.

But officials now say they overestimated the need. 80% of the rooms regularly went unused for the past several weeks, according to the SF Chronicle.

"It's pretty shocking, particularly when we were told that one of the reasons we couldn't get people into rooms was because it costs too much money," said SF Supervisor Matt Haney. "Well a good place to start would be to fill the rooms we already have for people who need them, and not spend so much money on empty rooms."

On Twitter, Mayor London Breed said we need to be flexible when circumstances change.

"Testing results from UCSF show that low-wage workers are being disproportionately impacted, so we're converting 556 unused hotel rooms originally intended for first responders to serve these residents," the tweet read.

Haney says many first responders told him they didn't know such rooms were available to them.

"I'm glad that now these rooms are being repurposed for a population, mostly low-wage workers who need them, but I really wish they had done this weeks ago," he said. "We weren't getting answers to questions that I'd been asking in hearings for weeks, as to why there are so many empty rooms."

Each room costs S76 a day. On Friday, for example, there were 751 unoccupied rooms -- 445 of which the city pays for based on its contract. That equates to more than $30,000 in one day, according to numbers from the Human Services Agency obtained by The SF Chronicle.

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