Physician’s assistant Michael Mallatt administers a COVID-19 test at a drive-through site at the UCSF Laurel Heights campus on Friday, March 27, 2020. (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)

‘Major surge’ in COVID-19 cases prompts plans for Presidio medical site

SF diagnosing an average of 98 new coronavirus cases daily

San Francisco’s top health official announced plans Thursday to have a new medical site on standby in the Presidio in case hospitals become overwhelmed by patients amid a “major surge” of COVID-19 cases.

The City has seen a steady increase in new cases and hospitalizations throughout July, prompting officials to cease moving ahead with reopening more businesses.

“We are in a major surge of COVID-19. The virus is moving fast and more people are getting seriously ill,” said Dr. Grant Colfax, head of the Department of Public Health.“If things continue at current rates we estimate that on average we will have more than 750 San Franciscans in the hospital by mid-October and more than 600 deaths from COVID-19 in 2020.”

In case there is a need for more hospital beds, Coflax announced plans alongside Supervisor Catherine Stefani to activate a continuing care facility at 1163 and 1167 Gorgas Ave. in the Presidio within warehouses that date back to 1919. It could serve up to 93 patients.

The department is funding the site and will staff it with medical professionals along with University of San Francisco providers, Colfax said.

“We are not planning to open it immediately. It will be based on our capacity of our hospital systems across The City,” he said.

The site would be used for hospitalized patients without COVID-19 “who no longer need acute medical care but aren’t quite ready to go home.”

“Instead they would be discharged to this care site,” Colfax said.

Stefani said that “we are proactively preparing for future COVID-19 surges” and noted that “it is not a drop-in acute care site, testing location or shelter.”

The announcement comes as San Francisco’s hospitalizations have increased steadily in recent weeks, reaching an all-time high of 107.

“Unfortunately, that number is higher than it has ever been before and continues to climb,” Colfax said. “In April, we experienced a surge of COVID-19 cases, which at its peak saw 94 San Franciscans in the hospital. That number dropped to just 26 patients six weeks ago.”

Hospitals in San Francisco have yet to become overwhelmed with patients as was seen in other locations like New York City. “Fortunately, for now, we still have capacity in our hospital system to care for patients,” Colfax said.

He said that “The City must continue to prepare as this surge continues” and that “the number of people in the hospital today tells us how many people became infected with COVID-19 about two weeks ago.”

Colfax called on residents to “behave as though each of us could have COVID-19” and comply with wearing face coverings and social distancing to reduce The City’s chances of seeing a greater surge of cases.

The City is currently diagnosing an average of 98 new COVID-19 cases daily. Since March, The City has diagnosed 6,423 people with COVID-19 and 58 have died.

jsabatini@sfexaminer.com

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