SFist, Mar. 20, 2020
By Jay Barmann
The city of San Francisco is preparing for a surge in coronavirus cases, and is trying to protect both the homeless population and the families of healthcare workers through the use of currently empty hotel rooms.
As the Business Times reports, Mayor London Breed, Human Services Agency Director Trent Rohrer, and public health chief Dr. Grant Colfax met with representatives for 50 city hotels and the Hotel Council of San Francisco earlier this week to discuss plans to lease up to 3,500 rooms for use as quarantine spaces for those who can not safely shelter at home in isolation — either because they are homeless or they are a resident of an SRO.
The Chronicle reports that one hotel in the city has already been leased for this purpose, and as of Friday, the Business Times says that four homeless people have already been moved into hotel rooms — it's not clear if they are confirmed as positive cases for COVID-19 or not, and the name of the hotel has not been publicized.
Rohrer tells the Chronicle, 'Those first people were homeless individuals who were tested in the hospital but are not showing signs that need them to be hospitalized, and so we move them from the hospitals to that particular hotel. This will be a very common occurrence."
Additional hotel space is likely to be leased beyond the initial 3,500 rooms to be used to allow doctors and nurses working in the city to self-isolate from their families as the pandemic peaks, per the Business Times.
Meanwhile, some hotels are closing to guests entirely — like the W downtown — and others are reporting occupancy as low as 10 percent this week. Hotel representatives reportedly had a lot of unanswered questions from Wednesday's meeting, including who would be responsible for continuing to run services in the hotel while rooms were leased out, and what would be the procedures around cleaning rooms during and after a person was quarantined there.
In related news earlier this week, Supervisor Dean Preston was pushing for the use of the largely vacant — and scandal plagued — development at 555 Fulton Street in Hayes Valley as a homeless shelter during the crisis. Developer Zhang Li, the Chinese billionaire who has been implicated as a player in the city corruption scandal, has yet to respond to Preston's request, as far as we know.