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San Francisco Health Officials Launch Local Coronavirus Testing Program

SAN FRANCISCO (CBS SF) -- With new cases diagnosed all across the Bay Area Monday, San Francisco health officials announced their public health lab has begun local testing for the coronavirus.

San Francisco Director of Health Dr. Grant Colfax said the new tests kits will mean a shorter turnaround time in diagnosing possible San Francisco coronavirus patients.

"This is a benefit to our community because it will speed testing and results," Colfax said. "Our lab will conduct tests 7 days a week with a one or two-day turnaround. Previously, all the testing that was done on San Francisco residents had to be sent to the Centers for Disease Control laboratory in Atlanta."



There have at least 26 cases of coronavirus diagnosed in the San Francisco Bay Area. On Monday, two news cases were reported in Santa Clara County, one in San Mateo and another in Sonoma. The Sonoma County case involved a patient who had recently returned from a cruise from San Francisco to Mexico.

"For San Francisco, it's not a matter of if but when (a case with be confirmed)," Colfax said. "We expected to have confirmed cases of the new coronavirus in San Francisco and are preparing for community spread."

But Colfax said he wanted to be clear -- "There is no on-demand testing at this time."

Potential cases will still be screened by the individual's doctor, local hospitals, San Francisco Public Health and the CDC to determine if there is the need for a coronavirus test to be run.

"It is also important to understand that because we are testing more and more people will get tested more quickly, we are likely to diagnose a case very soon," he said.

Health department officials have prioritized populations within the city that are most vulnerable to becoming sick or dying. They have reached out to the chronically ill, asking them to reach out to their doctors so their medical needs met now for the next 90 days.

Colfax said that will keep them away from medical system during the current crisis.

Speaking at a school in Oakland Monday, Governor Gavin Newsom said his administration was working on acquiring more test kits for labs.

"I'm confident where we need to be right now and you're going to see a significant increase in the number of test kits distributed and the number of tests coming back. As a consequence, none of us should be surprised the more we test, the more positives will come back from those tests. We are anticipating this," Newsom told gathered reporters.

He said special protections need to be made for senior citizens to prevent their infections of the pneumonia-like illness.

"Obviously the older you are, you come in with pre-existing conditions, they complicate matters. And that's when we need to be the most vigilant," said Newsom. "Obviously, skilled nursing facilities, other areas where there's large concentrations of seniors, assisted living facilities."

San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo said people and businesses need to start making plans now for possible widespread absenteeism.

"Those individuals who can telecommute, who can avoid trips that are unnecessary, this is the time to be making those plans and prepare for what may happen if we discover there are many more cases. I expect there will be more cases," Liccardo said.

Andria Borba contributed to this story.


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