San Francisco Chronicle, April 2, 2020
By Alejandro Serrano and Kevin Fagan
The first resident at a homeless shelter has tested positive for COVID-19, San Francisco announced Thursday, setting off a race to trace everyone the individual has recently interacted with as officials tried to contain a potential outbreak among the city’s most vulnerable residents. Health officials said they isolated the person, who had been at the the Division Circle Navigation Center, in a hotel room where they were described as being in “good condition.” Officials said it was unclear where or how the person got the coronavirus. It appeared the shelter remained open. City officials said they provided masks for all of of the center’s residents and staff and instructed them to wear them at all times. Health officials are trying to trace every person the infected individual contacted in and outside of the shelter. The gender and age of the individual was not disclosed. A doctor and health workers were also deployed to to the shelter to conduct symptom and temperature screenings for all residents and staff, while a cleaning crew was being dispatched to disinfect the facility, which is located at 1950 Mission St.
Health officials said any resident with symptoms will be tested and quarantined at hotel rooms. Other shelter residents may also be moved out of the shelter to hotels “based on their risk of exposure and risk of disease.” Abigail Stewart-Kahn, the interim director of the Department of Homelessness and Supportive Housing, said the city had planned for weeks in anticipation of the first coronavirus patient at a homeless shelter. “The well being of our homeless neighbors is our top priority, and we will continue to work in partnership with our nonprofit service providers, (Department of Public Health) and the entire city to aggressively contain the virus and protect our community,” Stewart-Kahn said in a statement. “To the Division Circle Navigation Center community, I am here for you, HSH and DPH are here for you as is the entire city.” Jennifer Friedenbach, director of the Coalition on Homelessness, called the development “very, very frustrating and scary.” Advocates for the homeless have urged city officials for weeks to move people from group living situations like shelters to hotel rooms, where they can quarantine if they must. “This has been our fear. We are really scared,” Friedenbach said. “The folks who live at that Navigation Center are very vulnerable ... this was exactly why we had been pushing them to stop the practice of having them sleep one on top of the other.”