Jake Jacobs, UCSF LVN at Ward 86-HIV Clinic, demonstrates collecting a blood sample for medical volunteers at the Garfield Square site. Being tested is volunteer Brian Barneson, a nursing student at CCSF. (Courtesy Barbara Ries for UCSF)

UCSF study finds 2 percent positive rate for coronavirus in Mission District

Confirmed cases overwhelmingly among Latinos, low-income, asymptomatic and unable to work remotely

Preliminary results from a community testing effort in the Mission released Monday found that about 2 percent of 2,959 Mission residents and workers tested in a single census tract during the last weekend of April were positive for coronavirus.

And an overwhelming number of those were Latino, low income, symptom-free and lacking health care.

Of the workers and residents who tested positive, 95 percent were Latino, 75 percent were male, and 53 percent were asymptomatic. That’s compared to 55 percent male and 44 percent Latino among those tested overall in a census tract estimated to be 58 percent Latino. An estimated 55 percent of the total census tract residents were tested.

Due to high demand, another 1,201 residents outside the dedicated census tract and others were tested but were largely removed from the University of California San Francisco study analysis presented Monday.

The remaining five percent of positive cases were Asian, making up 11 percent of those tested. Thirty-eight percent of residents and workers were white while three percent were black, with zero positive cases for either group.

Just 10 percent of those who tested positive were able to work from home and 89 percent made less than $50,000 per year. Nearly 60 percent had three to five people in their households while 29 percent had more than five people under the same roof.

“I think it’s an important thought when we look at some of the demographic data, low-wage essential workers really being victims of this disease,” said Dr. Diane Havlir, who heads the infectious diseases division at UCSF and ZSFGH. “People who cannot sustain their income while sheltering in place are disproportionately represented in positive cases.”

The testing came out of a partnership between the Latino COVID-19 Task Force, University of California San Francisco, city departments, and Zuckerberg San Francisco General Hospital, collectively known as Unidos En Salud. More than 450 medical workers and volunteers mobilized in a matter of weeks, boosting the City’s overall tests by 29 percent.

The City had tested 25,165 people as of Monday and found a roughly nine percent positive rate. Of 1,624 confirmed cases, 29 people have died.

Among the positive cases citywide, 37 percent are Latino, 17 percent are white, 14 percent are Asian, five percent are black, and 19 percent of unknown race or ethnicity. Census data estimates San Francisco’s 2019 population was 15 percent Latino, 40 percent white, 36 percent Asian, and 6 percent black.

In reaching out to 67 of 73 people who tested positive, researchers found that just 15 people had a primary care doctor. Latinos made up 84 percent of coronavirus hospitalizations at ZSFGH, partly spurring the study.

Upon seeing the preliminary results, Supervisor Hillary Ronen said Monday she will introduce legislation to ensure that any San Francisco resident who tests positive and doesn’t have a safe place to isolate will get access to a hotel room, replacement wages and basic needs like food for those 14 days of quarantine.

“The results are, unfortunately, not completely unexpected considering the reports we heard from the population that have been in the ICU rooms at [ZSFGH],” Ronen said. “What this study adds is some additional information about socioeconomic status, about the ability to work from home, about the number of people who were positive and who had access to health care. That is going to make it easier to continue these studies going forward and lead to proper care and quarantining on the back end.”

Antibody results showing past infections will come in another two to four weeks, Havlir added. Unidos En Salud will recreate the effort in another three to six months to track progress and is eyeing Bayview Hunters Point as the next neighborhood for another potential community testing effort in the meantime.

When asked if more community efforts like the one in the Mission would expand to other neighborhoods, Dr. Grant Colfax emphasized that it was a UCSF research project. Still, he called it an important model moving forward.

“The results of that work will help us inform our program, will help us inform our ability to strengthen our testing both in the Mission as well as in other communities at risk in San Francisco,” Colfax said Monday. “Testing is a key component of our overall recovery.”

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