Fearing protests could spread virus, San Francisco has set up a pop-up testing site

A healthcare worker collects a nasal swab from Victor Guardavo for coronavirus testing in San Bernardino County.
A healthcare worker collects a nasal swab from a man attending an event in Montclair in San Bernardino County. San Francisco on Friday announced it has created a pop-up testing site for protesters to be screened.
(Irfan Khan / Los Angeles Times)

San Francisco city officials on Friday established a free, pop-up coronavirus testing clinic for people protesting for racial equality in the aftermath of George Floyd’s death.

Across the country, massive protests have sparked fears of a second wave of coronavirus cases with thousands of demonstrators crowding close together, yelling and holding hands, potentially spreading the virus.

“I think there is a concern around the possibility that the virus would increase as a result of the protests,” said Grant Colfax, the city’s public health officer, at a virtual news conference.

The clinic is free for people who are worried they may have contracted the virus at the mass demonstrations this last week — even if they have no symptoms.

“I certainly understand and support the right of people to protest,” said Colfax, adding that most of the people he saw demonstrating seemed to be wearing masks and keeping their distance from one another.


L.A. County closed several testing sites or limited their hours amid protests, prompting concern that the move could could abet a second wave of coronavirus cases. Garcetti says all sites in the city will reopen Friday.

“So, hopefully we will not see a surge in cases as a result of what’s happened,” he said.

Nevertheless, the pop-up site will be open every day until Tuesday. It is at St. Mary’s Cathedral, 1111 Gough St., northwest of City Hall, where several of the protests have taken place.

The new pop-up clinic comes as local governments across California decided to close testing sites amid protests that sometimes turned violent in the wake of Floyd’s death at the hands of Minneapolis police. Los Angles was one county that closed testing sites, limiting the county’s ability to track the spread of COVID-19.

Since Saturday, half of the approximately 40 government-run testing sites throughout the county had been shut down at some point, The Times reported Friday. As of Thursday, eight were still closed, but Friday the county reported that all had reopened.

There were no immediate reports of new pop-up clinics in Southern California aimed at encouraging protesters to get tested.

The latest maps and charts on the spread of COVID-19 in California.

In San Francisco, Colfax also provided guidelines for those people who are beginning to venture out of their homes to see friends and family, although, he warned, the safest thing still is to stay home.

However, if socialization is desired, people should try to meet with one another outdoors, wear masks, keep six feet apart, wash their hands frequently and — most importantly — stay home if they are not feeling well.

“That’s really a great risk to the people you’d be engaging with,” Colfax said.

To date, San Francisco had recorded 2,698 coronavirus cases, including 54 new ones Friday. A reported 43 people in the city have died of COVID-19.

Times staff writer Hailey Branson Potts contributed to this story.