San Francisco ramping up COVID-19 testing to meet increased demand

San Francisco leaders are expanding testing throughout the city trying to reign in the spread of COVID-19.

San Francisco is still seeing an increase in infection and hospitalization rates and the city says it is taking the next steps to bring those rates down, but they need the help of every resident. 

Despite early success in flattening San Francisco's COVID-19 curve, data shows that the curve is now trending in the wrong direction. The city's public health department said it took 38 days to go from 2,000 to 3,000 infections, but just 13 days to go from 4,000 to 5,000—an average of 79 new cases diagnosed every day.

Dr. Grant Colfax said if things don't change the city could face a crisis similar to what unfolded last month on the East Coast. 

"So when we talk about the curve and our surge, I'm very concerned that as cases increase, it's plausible that we could get in a New York like situation in the late summer or early fall," Colfax said.

Public health officials and the mayor's office said part of the way forward is with expanded testing. The city has already ordered private medical providers to step up their testing, and now the city is adding testing locations and increasing testing for those most likely to be infected, beyond the 3,000 plus tests already being performed daily throughout the city. 

"In total, we will have an additional 1,400 testing slots per day," said Mayor London Breed. "That's nearly a 45% increase over what we've been averaging over the past week."

The mayor also discussed a topic on the minds of families throughout the city, what school will look like this coming academic year with distance learning. The mayor said the city is working on opening learning hubs and working with the community to provide alternatives that work for families. 

"We want kids to get back to school, playing with each other, getting back to learning," said Mayor Breed. "All the things they need to grow and develop. But, part of the challenge that we have is, we have not, sadly, flattened the curve. We've seen things get worse, and we all have to do our part."

For now, the city says the pause in reopenings remains in effect.

Health officials stressed that face coverings and social distancing are the keys to bringing the latest surge under control. The mayor and health officials said without a doubt that social gatherings in the city are responsible for this latest increase in infections.