San Francisco Director of Health Dr. Grant Colfax and District 2 Supervisor Catherine Stefani announced a significant step in bolstering the City’s preparedness for the continuing surge in COVID-19 cases that has put more people in the hospital than at any time in the pandemic so far.
A facility in the Presidio will soon become San Francisco’s first continuing care site for non-COVID-19 patients. Designed for those who need short-term medical observation or support, but not close monitoring or intensive nursing care in a traditional hospital setting, the “low-acuity” facility helps create space within San Francisco’s hospital system for COVID-19 patients. If and when it is needed, the facility will be ready to serve up to 93 patients.
“The current situation with COVID-19 is serious and we can’t afford to let our guard down. We must continue to do what we can to prepare for a surge in cases, while at the same time working to slow the spread of the virus in our community,” said Mayor London N. Breed. “We know that if everyone does their part with social distancing and face covering, we’ll be able to get the virus under control and won’t need to use this facility. But, if we do, the continuing care site in the Presidio will be an important part of our City response to make sure we’re able to care for those in need.”
San Francisco currently has 6,423 patients diagnosed with COVID-19. A surge in April put 94 San Franciscans in the hospital; the number dipped to 26 six weeks ago. Today there are 107 City residents in the hospital. One quarter of them are in intensive care.
“Since before San Francisco recorded its first case of COVID-19, we have taken a proactive approach to prepare and protect the community,” said Dr. Colfax. “Early public health orders to shelter in place, require social distancing, and temporarily close non-essential businesses have saved lives. But now, as cases surge, we are keeping a close eye on hospital capacity, continuing to expand testing, and working closely with our communities on safer practices. While we are prepared for a prolonged surge, it is not inevitable. We must continue to practice social distancing, continue to wear face coverings, and even though it’s difficult, resist the urge to gather with people outside of our homes.”
“For more than a century, the Presidio has been an integral part of our City's disaster-response efforts, and I am pleased to see this essential partnership continue,” said Supervisor Catherine Stefani, who represents District 2 where the Presidio is located. “As San Francisco sees a growing number of COVID-19 cases, we must do everything possible to shore up our medical resources. Activating this facility as a low-acuity medical center will allow our hospitals to continue to provide excellent care over the course of this pandemic.”
The continuing care site in the Presidio will allow patients to receive medical care after their treatment at one of the City’s hospitals or in lieu of going to a hospital. In this way, a continuing care site acts as a hospital relief valve to ensure the City keeps hospital beds available for anyone who needs acute care during and after a COVID-19 surge. If a patient’s condition worsens while at the continuing care site, they will be transported by ambulance to a hospital. The site is not expected to serve COVID-19 patients unless the course of the pandemic changes.
The new facility, located in a rehabilitated building in the northeastern corner of the Presidio, will also allow the City’s hospitals to continue to address medical needs unrelated to COVID-19, such as elective surgeries. The site is part of a comprehensive strategy which also includes testing and contact tracing, with provision of food, housing and financial assistance to COVID-positive residents who need support to isolate.
SF and the Presidio Trust has a history of collaboration and partnership
“We are proud to continue a tradition of the Presidio being used as a place of refuge and help to citizens of San Francisco during times of difficulty,” said Jean Fraser, CEO of the Presidio Trust. “We are gratified to support our local community, while ensuring safety to all Presidio residents, workers and visitors.”
The Presidio Trust has a mutual aid agreement with the City and County of San Francisco and has been part of its emergency response system dating back as far as the 1906 earthquake. The Presidio’s former Letterman Hospital has a history of providing critical convalescent care for wounded soldiers and those recovering from other afflictions.
“Fellow Board member Marie Hurabiell and I visited the new site and were uplifted to see the careful planning and thoughtfulness in caring for patients,” said Bill Grayson, Chair of the Presidio Trust Board of Directors. “The new care center is a top-notch facility, and we are pleased to have it located in the Presidio.”