As San Francisco continues to weather a surge of COVID-19 cases in recent weeks, Mayor London Breed on Tuesday announced a new order that will require hospitals and large health care systems to prove to the city that they are meeting patient testing needs in a timely manner.
The new mayoral order, which takes effect Wednesday, requires the health systems to provide documentation twice a week showing they are following a city order from August 2021 by providing testing for patients in their care with symptoms or people who have been a close contact to a positive test within 24 hours of a request.
If they do not, the hospitals and health systems could face fines of up to $10,000 per day.
"To meet current demand, we need more from our private health care partners," Breed said at a briefing Tuesday with other city officials.
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Dr. Grant Colfax, director of the city's Department of Public Health, said the city is seeing an unprecedented number of COVID-19 cases and increased demand for testing thanks to the new omicron variant that has proved more contagious than previous variants of the virus.
One in five tests administered in the city right now are coming back positive, Colfax said. He noted hospitalization numbers have not climbed quite as drastically because of the high vaccination rate in the city and said the "vast majority" of those hospitalized are unvaccinated or have not gotten their booster shot.
"We are in the middle of the worst of this omicron surge," he said, but added that "we have reason to believe, based on data from other parts of the world, that we could be turning a corner soon."
City officials on Tuesday also said they are providing more support to San Francisco Unified School District, which has faced staffing shortages coming out of its winter break due to teachers and other employees being sick.
The city will provide 500,000 surgical masks for students, 150,000 KN95 masks for staff and 1,000 rapid tests for educators to use after they quarantine and before they return to the classroom.
SFUSD Superintendent Vincent Matthews said that by the end of this week, every student and teacher in a district classroom will have a take-home COVID test. Breed and other city officials said they don't plan any additional restrictions for residents for the time being, and said a main priority is to keep schools open in San Francisco.
More information about testing in the school district can be found at https://www.sfusd.edu/covid-19-response-updates-and-resources/covid-19-surveillance-testing-students/covid-19-testing-locations-and-dates.