San Francisco supervisor demands city step up as communities of color hit hard by COVID-19

The supervisor from San Francisco's southeast district is demanding the city refocus its efforts to battle COVID-19 on those areas most heavily impacted. 

Experts say that anyone can get the virus, but the data that the city has collected shows that many of San Francisco's ethnic communities are hit hardest. 

As coronavirus swept through San Francisco it hasn't hit all parts of the city evenly. The city's South of Market, Mission, and Southeast neighborhoods show higher infection rates and tragically more deaths.

Supervisor Shamann Walton stood in front of the Southeast Health Center calling for more clinics and pop-up testing sites where the virus is having the most impact.

"Asymptomatic pop-up testing sites, in the most vulnerable communities and communities where we see have a higher proportion of folks who have contracted COVID-19," said Walton.

The supervisor said the city was slow in releasing data to confirm what he had already suspected—that the virus is taking a greater toll on communities of color. 

He said he has repeatedly called for additional resources and a greater focus on parts of the city more heavily impacted. 

"I need the Department of Public Health to care about people of color and folks in our isolated communities," said Walton. "I need the Department of Homelessness and Supportive Housing to care. I need the Department of Human Services to care."

The Department of Public Health said on Wednesday that neighborhoods with high numbers of African Americans, Latinos, and non-English speakers were on the radar early on. 

"These populations have been a focus of our work since the beginning of the pandemic and the health department has resources and teams working with those communities on a daily basis," said Dr. Grant Colfax from the San Francisco Department of Public Health.

Colfox said the city has opened clinics and medical facilities in those hard-hit areas to ensure help is nearby. He also announced the opening of a new testing facility in another predominantly African American neighborhood. 

"And I am happy to report that another community-based testing site will open tomorrow in the Western Addition next to the Maxine Hall Health Center," said Dr. Colfax. "These community sites give patients the opportunity to be tested without leaving their own neighborhood."

Supervisor Walton is joining with other supervisors in asking the city to move quickly to get the homeless and those in congregate housing into hotels to help slow the spread of COVID-19. He's also calling for more outreach to make sure the message about how to stay safe during the pandemic reaches an audience that needs to hear it.