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Mayor presses healthcare providers: Share Covid-19 testing burden or face fines

San Francisco officials want to ensure that private, large health care providers are aiding in the efforts to test people for Covid-19 as lines for testing remain long and at-home test kits continue to be in short supply.

Mayor London Breed at a press conference Tuesday announced a change in Covid-19 testing guidelines for large private health care providers, such as hospitals and hospital-affiliated systems, in order to meet the current demands for testing.

The largest healthcare systems will need to submit proof twice a week to the Department of Public Health that they are meeting the needs of patients who request Covid-19 tests in a timely manner. Failure to do so can mean fines of up to $10,000 per day.

Breed said:

To be clear, this really isn’t about punishment. It’s about everyone doing their part and our private health care providers need to do their part for our members so that our city is not overwhelmed and not able to provide testing in a timely manner.”

Breed’s office said the mayor plans to issue the mayoral order on Wednesday,

The City already has a public health order in place as of Aug. 19, 2021 that requires these facilities to provide a test for its member patients within a certain amount of time. Currently, though, they only need to submit a report every two weeks to the public health department. The requirement urges healthcare facilities to provide a test for patients within 24 hours and results within 48 hours at least 90 percent of the time.

Public health officials admit there have been challenges with access to testing, including at contractor sites, where staff are also getting sick. On Monday, officials announced a reduction of operating hours at four testing sites. Also on Monday, testing vender Color experienced a nationwide outage affecting several sites in The City. As of Tuesday, two sites in San Francisco were closed, according to Color’s website.

Public health director Dr. Grant Colfax said The City has scaled up its testing capacity overall, administering an average of more than 10,000 tests a day. On Jan. 3, The City administered a record 17,809 tests.

The number of positive Covid-19 cases continues to increase in The City. The current seven-day average case rate among all residents is 158.4 per 100,000 residents, or 1,386 new cases per day, according to data from DPH.

Colfax said:

“Right now, nearly one in five tests are positive and it is likely that that rate will continue to increase over the next few days.”

He added that because of The City’s high vaccination and booster rates, San Francisco will get through the omicron surge without running out of intensive care beds.

As cases continue to soar, both the mayor and Public Health Officer Susan Philip said they do not plan on adding any additional restrictions at this time. Philip added they will continue to monitor the data and make adjustments as needed.

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