San Francisco mass COVID testing site to close as 80% of residents have received a vaccine dose

San Francisco will be shuttering the mass COVID testing site at piers 30 and 32 on Tuesday. City health officials say they can make this move because it's served its function. With so many people vaccinated, the city can begin shifting to more targeted testing instead of mass testing sites.

The once busy, high-volume testing site on the Embarcadero just south of the Bay Bridge was quiet Friday.

Health officials say with COVID rates dropping, they will be closing this testing site June 15. 

"What we're doing is actually shifting our focus to the areas in the city that we have seen the most case rates," said Dr. Naveena Bobba, Deputy Director of Health San Francisco. "So, we are actually expanding hours at Alemany and continuing our neighborhood sites."

City health officials say when this site opened in April of 2020 it was among the first mass testing sites in the nation. At that time close to 13.5% of tests came back positive. Compare that to now, when only 0.6% of tests are positive for COVID-19.

Health leaders say the city's strategies of testing and now vaccinations are working. 

"We are really looking at increasing our vaccine rates, continuing to increase those efforts, and then targeting our testing to those places where there might continue to be under-vaccination," said Dr. Bobba.

City leaders announced the city has officially reached 80% partial vaccination, 70% are fully vaccinated. That means once bustling mass *vaccination sites like Moscone are quiet as well.

But, they're still open and operational, looking to reach the remaining unvaccinated population.

Those who've been vaccinated say it's given them a sense of relief. "I think I waited until it was my age group," said Caren Chang. "I just wanted to be able to hang out with my parents and feel safe about it. [I] wanted to be able to go back to work and feel safe about it."

City health leaders say they learned hard lessons that will make them better prepared for the next pandemic. They say going into the fall and winter, the city will continue to test for COVID-19, even as flu begins to spread through the city. 

"How this generally works through the flu season is that as we get into the Winter season and there's a lot of different viruses circulating. Generally the health care systems do test for different viruses, and it's expected that COVID will be one of those viruses that get tested for," said Dr. Bobba.

The Embarcadero site has conducted nearly a half million COVID-19 tests, and the city says 99% of those patients got their results in just 36 hours.

Health experts say that quick turnaround was a critical step in slowing the spread of the disease in the city.