Community leaders rally to keep COVID testing sites open in San Francisco’s most vulnerable areas

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) — On the steps of City Hall, community leaders urged San Francisco’s mayor to reevaluate his budget proposal that would cut five COVID testing sites in some of the most vulnerable neighborhoods.

“Please keep the mission open, keep Excelsior open, keep Bayview open,” said Ivan Corado-Vega, head of the Latino task force.

The next budget would cut $9.5 million from COVID funds. The Latino task force wants the mayor to consider health equity in the next budget.

“Just two years ago, we had long discussions with city leaders about racial justice, divestment from failing systems, and the promise of equitable investment, especially in communities of color.”

Susana Rojas of the Latino Task Force, the group facing closures, said essential workers will be hit the hardest.

RELATED: Amid COVID surge, San Francisco cuts community testing site budget in vulnerable neighborhoods

“It’s hurtful and it’s disappointing,” Rojas said and added, “If all our essential workers get sick, what will happen to our businesses. What will happen to all industries that we have in the city.”

The mayor’s office said Mayor Breed prioritized economic recovery and said the city was facing a drop in federal funding.

“SF Health Network health centers in neighborhoods will continue to provide COVID resources to their patients and the uninsured, and offer primary care for other essential health needs. SFDPH will also continue to put set up mobile and “pop-up” sites for vulnerable people.

If the budget does not change, the Mission test site should close by the end of the year.

The first Latino Task Force location to close will be the Bayview at the end of this month.

RELATED: California’s Latino community hardest hit by COVID-19, data shows

“I think it’s not fair,” said San Francisco resident Maria Jasso. “A lot of people work in restaurants and come here because it’s free and it’s good for them.”

The Mission site welcomes more than 300 people on a regular basis.

“I still see people standing outside…San Francisco has always been seen as very progressive in terms of COVID and access for Latino communities, so to hear that they’re potentially backing down is really sad,” Francisca Gilmore said. , resident of San Francisco.

For now, the Latino Task Force remains hopeful.

“We hope we can negotiate and we can recover the budget in order to continue opening them,” Rojas said.

RELATED: Doctors explain why SF has the highest COVID positivity rate in California

Mayor Breed’s office released the following statement:

“Importantly, San Francisco will continue to invest in the COVID-19 response and provide low-barrier access points in priority communities for vaccinations and testing. While CBO’s contract funding for outreach efforts will be discontinued in the next proposed budget for fiscal year 22-23, there will be a carryover of funding from the previous fiscal year to continue community services as part of our response. COVID. DPH estimates that there is approximately $6 million left in total that can be spent in the coming months in the new fiscal year. DPH is working on a fund allocation process.

SSince the start of the pandemic, the majority of our COVID task force functions have been supported by temporary and one-time state and federal funding, including vendor relief funds, COVID relief funds and reimbursements from FEMA. Last year’s budget included significant funding to support our diverse communities as part of our response to COVID, providing essential care like vaccinations and community testing, small business and workforce support. work, much of which was funded by federal COVID support that no longer exists.

While COVID-19 will remain with us for the foreseeable future, we are now in a better position to live with the virus in a way that it doesn’t have to disrupt our lives. Vaccines and treatments to prevent serious illness in high-risk people and testing are widely available. Throughout our emergency response to COVID-19, the City has prioritized the communities hardest hit by the virus by investing in resources tailored to their immediate needs. In partnership with community organizations, we have strategically placed vaccine and low-barrier testing access points in our hardest-hit neighborhoods; these efforts have resulted in a higher proportion of vaccinations administered by SFDPH among people of color and higher vaccination rates than state and national averages. Raising awareness, education and building trust continue to be important strategies for reaching our highly impacted communities.

The Mayor’s proposed budget allocates $57.3 million in direct COVID-19 public health response work for SFDPH in the coming fiscal year (Fiscal Year 2022-23) and $25 million in the following fiscal year (fiscal year 2023-24). we are now which ends at the end of this month (FY2021-22) was $172 million, most of this total will be reimbursed by FEMA but this reimbursement will not be available in the future. In addition, the proposed budget allocates $3 million to the Office of Economic and Workforce Development (OEWD) which will continue organizational support and community referral services for low-income and vulnerable communities as part of of our economic recovery through the COVID-19 Resource Centers. for another six months.

SF Health Network health centers in neighborhoods will continue to provide COVID resources to their patients and the uninsured, and will offer primary care for other essential health needs. The SFDPH will also continue to set up mobile and “pop-up” sites for vulnerable people, such as people experiencing homelessness, people confined to their homes and others. More than two years into the pandemic, San Francisco has developed a robust health care system that can meet COVID-related health care needs. We now have COVID-19 vaccines, tests, medications, and other medical services available through all health systems, community clinics, and most pharmacies.

As we transition from COVID response to recovery and federal COVID funding drastically decreases, the City is prioritizing our general funds on critical citywide recovery needs that benefit all communities, including including addressing public safety priorities, supporting economic recovery so our small businesses can survive, paying meaningful wage increases for city workers and nonprofits, and continuing to address homelessness and public safety. “

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