Press Release

SF to streamline COVID-19 testing as demand continues to decline amidst historic vaccine rollout

One of the nation’s first mass testing sites at Pier 32 to close, as SF continues vaccinating its residents and sees continued drop in cases and hospitalizations. Testing to continue in neighborhoods impacted by COVID-19.  

The Department of Public Health and the COVID Command Center announced today that, because of SF's high vaccination rates and subsequent decline in demand for COVID-19 testing, San Francisco will close the Embarcadero high-volume testing site on June 15 and Alternative Testing Sites (ATS) in early July and provide testing through a network of low- barrier community access points and a robust mobile testing system to meet existing demand and better align with the current prevalence of COVID in the community.

“From the beginning of this pandemic, San Francisco has led the way in our response and our efforts to keep our residents safe. One of the first challenges we faced, at a time when the virus had just arrived and there didn’t appear to be much federal help on the way, was standing up a testing infrastructure from scratch. Our city employees and healthcare partners stepped up, worked together, and created a system that made testing available, fast, and accessible for all of our communities,” said Mayor London N. Breed. “Now, as our vaccination rate approaches 80% and we start to return to normal, the fact that we’re able to close the Embarcadero Testing site is yet another sign that we’re moving toward putting this pandemic behind us.”

The effectiveness and availability of COVID-19 vaccines has dramatically driven down case rates, hospitalizations, and community spread and the need for testing. Currently, nearly 80% of San Franciscans eligible for a COVID-19 vaccination have received at least one dose; and as of June 7, San Francisco’s case rate was 1.5 per 100,000, 18% lower than the state representing a 96% decrease in San Francisco COVID-19 diagnoses since January. Hospitalizations are at their lowest point since the pandemic began and the average number of people diagnosed with COVID-19 in San Francisco declined by 96% since in January; from 372 to 13 as of June 7.

Testing has played a critical role throughout the pandemic and the testing data collected has allowed SF to address health and socioeconomic inequities as it deployed resources and stood up vaccine sites in areas with higher COVID-19 test positivity.

“As we continue to make great progress with our vaccination efforts, we reaffirm our commitment to continue to make testing available throughout the City, especially in communities that were hit the hardest by COVID-19,” said Dr. Naveena Bobba, Deputy Director of Public Health. “We thank our partners and community-based organizations for helping us build this extraordinary testing infrastructure to keep us all safe. The City-run testing sites are a national model and an example of San Francisco’s leadership in the response to COVID.”

Over the past several months, test positivity has declined along with demand for testing. As of June 7, the City’s COVID-19 seven-day average positivity rate - the percentage of tests that return a positive result - was 0.59%, down from 5.36% since the last peak in January and 13.43% in April of 2020. SF currently collects 3,100 tests daily, a 67% reduction since December 2020.

"The closure and realignment of testing resources is a testament to San Francisco’s expedient response to COVID-19," said Mary Ellen Carroll, Executive Director of the Department of Emergency Management. "While there is still an urgency for San Franciscans to continue to do their part in keeping this city safe, we should pause to celebrate the hard work that so many put in to ensure we arrived to meet this moment. This closure is a very real sign of a long-awaited return to normal."

Since it opened in April 2020, the CityTestSF Embarcadero Testing Site at Pier 30/32 - operated in partnership with Color Health - was remarkably successful with nearly 500,000 appointments and test results returned within 36 hours 99% of the time. The site, one of the nation’s first mass testing sites available to the public, began as an effort to test essential workers and eventually reallocated appointments to support mobile testing efforts at communities disproportionally affected by COVID- 19. ATS locations were implemented in July 2020 to provide low barrier, culturally competent access to COVID testing for San Francisco Health Network (SFHN) patients and residents of neighborhoods hardest hit by COVID-19. Moving forward, the ATS locations will continue to provide testing for SFHN’s patients and residents of these communities.

“The Port is honored to have played a central role in San Francisco’s response to the Pandemic with the implementation of one of our nation’s first public and free COVID-19 testing sites on Piers 30- 32,” said Elaine Forbes, Executive Director of the Port of San Francisco. “San Francisco has the highest testing and vaccination rates and one of the lowest deaths and hospital rates, which is a testament to the incredible work of Disaster Service Workers and the quick implementation of testing sites like the one on our waterfront.”

Low-barrier access to testing in priority neighborhoods will continue with all SF-operated sites expanding evening and adding weekend hours as well as offering drop-ins and on-site registration. Existing community testing sites with high daily capacity for testing include the Mission, Excelsior, Bayview Hunters Point, and the Tenderloin.

Additionally, essential workers and the general public can get tested at Alemany Farmers Market, which will expand testing capacity and accept appointments and onsite registration starting June 16.

“San Francisco has been a national leader in COVID-19 testing throughout the pandemic, taking a technology-driven approach to providing access to critical services,” said Othman Laraki, CEO of Color Health. “Nearly 500,000 tests later, the Embarcadero site is a testament to the city’s success in keeping residents safe. We are looking forward to continuing to support the city as it transitions from mass testing sites to community programs that provide fast, accurate, accessible testing where positivity rates are still elevated.”

Testing continues to be an important component of reopening our economy and stopping the spread of COVID-19, along with vaccination efforts. Individuals who are not vaccinated should get tested if they have COVID symptoms, were in close contact with someone with confirmed COVID-19 within 10 days of their positive result (even if they do not have any symptoms), or have been asked to get tested by their school, workplace, healthcare provider, or the health department. Additionally, they might get tested if they plan to take part in activities that put them at higher risk for COVID-19 - such as attending large, crowded gatherings - or work in a setting where there is a higher risk of COVID-19 transmission, such as homeless shelters, correctional facilities, and settings with close contact with the public.

Those fully vaccinated should get tested only if they experience COVID-19 symptoms or if they work in a healthcare setting and are required to be tested by their employer.

Please refer to the CDC for additional information on current testing guidance. To find a testing site in San Francisco, please visit sf.gov/get-tested.