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San Francisco Expands COVID Testing, Urges Residents To Limit Risk In Effort To Keep Services Running

SAN FRANCISCO (CBS SF) -- San Francisco is taking steps to keep essential services operating amid the surge in COVID cases fueled by the omicron variant, Mayor London Breed said Tuesday.

During a Tuesday morning virtual press conference, Breed said the city's Department of Public Health was expanding COVID testing to more than 25,000 tests a week, nearly double the capacity from three weeks ago. Testing will prioritize disaster service workers and symptomatic individuals, as well as first responders and the most vulnerable, such as residents and staff of skilled nursing facilities. The tests will arrive in weekly deliveries starting mid-January.

Breed said 81% of San Franciscans are vaccinated and 54% are boosted. While all city workers are vaccinated, the omicron variant is resulting in breakthrough infections, raising the prospect that staffers for the city's essential services could be infected and need to stay home.

While the city's hospitalization rates are expected to be lower with the omicron surge, the sheer number of new infections means the demand for hospital beds is also coming at a time when more healthcare workers are getting infected because of high community spread.

The city's health director Dr. Grant Colfax said the next few weeks would be critical in limiting the impact of the latest COVID surge and urged San Franciscans to lower their risk of exposure to help protect critical infrastructure.

"We will see large outbreaks and many people we know and love are getting COVID. However, it is within our control to limit the damage, said Colfax. "And then a hopeful note, we are expecting a peak in these cases relatively quickly. Our projections show again this situations that cases will peak within the next two weeks, making it possible for us to minimize the damage if we are smart and take proper precautions we've come to know so well during the course of this pandemic."

"Get boosted – it's not too late," said Colfax. "And for goodness sake please, get vaccinated if you not have already done so."

People are also being urged to upgrade their masks, work from home if possible, and limit time spent in crowded, indoor settings.

As of December 27, an average of 829 San Franciscans a day are contracting COVID-19, more than double that of last winter's peak at 373 cases per day. Meanwhile, as of Tuesday, 186 San Francisco police staffers - including 167 sworn officers - along with 135 fire department staffers, and 85 SFMTA personnel are quarantining after being exposed to COVID. These departments are prioritizing essential operations and establishing emergency contingency plans to minimize disruption to services.

Other measures being urged by the city:

  • Have everyone ages 5+ get their COVID-19 vaccine and booster if eligible.
  • Anyone who develops symptoms of COVID-19 should isolate themselves and get tested as soon as possible.
  • Get tested before travel, upon return, and again 3-5 days later.
  • Take advantage of quick and easy home test kits available in pharmacies and stores.
  • Outside gatherings are safer than indoor gatherings. Limit the number and size of indoor gatherings.
  • Take all precautions, including vaccinations, boosters, and testing when gathering with others without masks – especially with elderly or immunocompromised individuals, and anyone who is unvaccinated or not yet boosted.
  • Wear a well-fitted mask indoors and in crowded settings. To best protect yourself, wear an N95 or double mask with a cloth mask over a surgical mask to improve the seal. If possible, avoid wearing only a cloth mask during this surge.
  • Unvaccinated adults should avoid travel and gatherings outside their household.
  • Wash hands or use hand sanitizer often.


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