New study in SF's Mission District aims to curb COVID-19 outbreaks in Latino community

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- In an effort to curb COVID-19 outbreaks in the Latino community, a new testing program is set to launch this week in San Francisco's Mission District.

"I would really like to make a plea to our Latin community," said Dr. Gil Chavez, co-chair of the California's testing task force. He spoke in Spanish Monday at Governor Newsom's briefing, about the gravity of COVID-19 infections in the Latino community.

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"The infections amongst the young are not always trivial and we have a lot of infections in young people who are in the reproductive age that result in death," Chavez said in Spanish.

"Number one, we should protect people that are on the margins and most impacted because that's the right thing to do, but number two, if that's not your jam, you should do it because it helps protect you too," said Jon Jacobo, the health committee chair for the Latino Task Force, which in partnership with UCSF, BART, and the City of San Francisco is beginning the new testing program.

"If we were to reduce the amount of people that are infected here, that means they're not traveling to other parts of San Francisco where they work and passing that virus on to somebody else."

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The testing will take place at the 24th Street Mission BART plaza on Wednesdays and Fridays starting at 7 a.m. for the next three weeks.

Jacobo says the study is targeting a specific group.

"We're taking a limited amount of tests to see how efficient or effective it is to target commuters and essential workers with low barrier testing. Testing that's easy to access that you can literally walk up and be on your way in five minutes."

"They feel like they need to go out and work to feed their families," said Dr. Lucia Abascal, a UCSF clinician, who helps manage contact tracing teams. Spanish speakers, like herself, have been increasingly busy reaching out to people who are positive for COVID-19.

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"Most of the people we are calling don't have access or aren't connected to a primary care physician, which is obviously an issue."

Another issue, she's heard more lately, "What the LatinX community is worried about is that they're going to start being stereotyped as the COVID-19 affected population, and that's going to change how people around them perceive them," only increasing the urgency to test and contain the outbreaks.

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