SAN FRANCISCO — With the flu and COVID-19 spreading as we approach the holiday travel and family gathering season, a testing and vaccination site in San Francisco’s Mission District is hoping to protect some of the most vulnerable among local residents.
The “Unidos en Salud” site on 24th and Capp streets has been there for almost two years. It’s a low barrier site. They don’t ask for health insurance or an ID, and it’s free.
And even more than 2 1/2 years into the pandemic, people in the area are still using their services.
“Even though we want to recover, we want to the economy to do well, we don’t want to forget about the health disparities that COVID really pulled the covers off,” said Valerie Tulier-Laiwa with the Latino Task Force.
María Malak lined up outside of the site on Monday morning shortly before the site opened at 9 a.m. She was with her husband who worked in the area.
Malak was there to get her booster shot. She said she and her husband were due for one.
“To prevent us from getting COVID, God forbid,” she said. “Every time we’ve come, they’ve treated us well here.”
At the site, they offer COVID-19 shots – including the bivalent booster – the flu shot, and the monkeypox vaccine.
Malek got her booster and the flu shot as well
“I read that the flu is going to be stronger this year,” Malak said.
And she’s not wrong. CDC graphs show flu hospitalizations are surging in the U.S.
Meanwhile, COVID-19 positivity rates are slightly rising in the Bay Area.
“Testing positivity is 14%,” said retired nurse Diane Jones referring to the positivity rate at the site. She volunteers at Unidos en Salud.
She admits COVID-19 testing is down. Many are using the at-home rapid tests. But of the people who have come to get tested, a 14% positivity rate is a sharp contrast to San Francisco’s roughly 6%.
This site is located in the Latino Cultural District. Many who walk in are working families who are Latino.
Jones says because of the availability of shots, they were able to push out texts reminding people about their boosters. They were sent in multiple languages, and they’re seeing more and more walk in to get their shots.
Gov. Gavin Newsom’s office announced the COVID state of emergency will end in February 2023. Jones fears what could happen to this site’s funding after they, but she said they’re hoping to work with the city to find a way to extend that time.
“We want this community of essential workers to be protected because they are the most vulnerable,” Jones said.