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California

San Francisco says vitally needed masks, gloves, face shields are being diverted

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The mayor of San Francisco says the city is still struggling to get adequate medical equipment to battle the coronavirus, including masks, gloves, face shields and gowns.

The buying isn’t the issue — Mayor London Breed said the city had been able to purchase 15 million pieces of the medical gear, known as personal protective equipment, and private firms have donated more.

But getting the equipment has been challenging, she said at a news conference Friday.

“We had isolation gowns on the way to San Francisco and then diverted to France,” she said. Another order of equipment went through customs and then was “confiscated” by FEMA for other places.

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(On Monday, she clarified that her remark about FEMA seizing the medical equipment was not correct and was based on erroneous information provided by the third-party supplier who sold the supplies to the city. Breed said the federal agency is now questioning the supplier.)

The city also has had equipment go through customs, Breed said, only to have it taken and “put on the market for the highest bidder.”

More pressure is likely to be placed on Gov. Gavin Newsom to offer a clearer timeline to reopening California amid the coronavirus outbreak.

“That at the height of this pandemic we are still having a conversation about PPE really does blow my mind,” she said. “There has been nothing that has been more frustrating.”

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Meanwhile, San Francisco’s director of public health said Friday that about 10% of the city’s positive coronavirus cases were homeless people or those living in single-room-occupancy hotels.

Dr. Grant Colfax, speaking at the news conference with Breed and other city officials, said the city continued to respond to occasional positive cases in its homeless shelters by doing testing, deep cleaning and moving residents into hotels leased by the city.

At long-term-care facilities in the city, 113 people have been infected with the virus, he said. He did not know the number of deaths.

He said experts from the state and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention were working with these nursing homes to stem the pace of infections. The city’s Department of Public Health also checks in with the homes once a week to provide advice and protective equipment.

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The city successfully stemmed an early outbreak of coronavirus infection at Laguna Honda Hospital, one of the largest skilled nursing facilities in the nation, but Colfax said new infections may occur.

Testing showed that five staff members and four residents at Laguna Honda were positive for the virus. All are in good condition, Colfax said, and there has not been another positive case since April 7.

Times staff writer Rong-Gong Lin II contributed to this report.


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