Coronavirus: San Francisco renting hotel rooms to house homeless, first responders, vulnerable

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- San Francisco officials on Wednesday discussed the city's plan to help those without homes and those who are vulnerable during the novel coronavirus shelter-in-place.

"The data tells us that staying home is the very best defense," says health official Grant Colfax. But what about those who don't have a place to go?

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The executive director of the Human Services Agency, which provides housing and care during the city's disaster and emergency responses, says the most pressing need is to ensure there's a relief valve from the medical system for those who do not need to be there but still need to be quarantined.

He says the best way to do this is to rent thousands of San Francisco hotel rooms.

These priorities are at the direction of the Dept. of Public Health:

For hotel rooms, the number one priority is to divert individuals who need to quarantine because they're COVID-19 positive or have shown symptoms.

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Ninety-five percent of these individuals are homeless, the remaining are those who live in congregate settings.

"Vulnerable populations" will also be given priority for those hotels, the priority given to those who are in homeless shelters, provided they can self-care.

Frontline healthcare responders will also be given priority for hotel rooms, so they don't go home and potentially infect their family or loved ones. There are rooms set aside for those who become infected so that they can quarantine.

Vulnerable adults over 65 will also be prioritized, provided they can self-care.

To date, San Francisco has entered into contracts with six hotels, providing 679 rooms -- 123 people have already been moved into hotels.

Two other hotels with 563 rooms will finalize their contract today. Another 1,500-room hotel will hopefully be available by the end of the week.

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There are 2,555 total rooms that should be available by end of this week, officials say. There will be 6,555 rooms available in total with all negotiations taken into account. The names of the hotels will not be released.

Mayor Breed says that Moscone West has been identified as a place where there's room for 394 people to stay with 6 feet of space, with the goal of thinning out San Francisco's shelter system. Negotiations for other shelters are also underway.

California is also sending 91 trailers to San Francisco and 30 recreational vehicles have also been obtained for those who need to isolate but cannot care for themselves.

While San Francisco residents are urged to stay at home, Mayor Breed said it's important to not lose social connections during this difficult time. People are encouraged to reach out to others, including neighbors and those who are most vulnerable.

Colfax says Laguna Honda Hospital remains a serious concern amid a growing outbreak there. The California Dept. of Public Help, CDC and other partners are working closely on current cases.

As of Wednesday, Laguna Honda Hospital has 12 confirmed cases of novel coronavirus. Ten cases are among staff and two are among residents.

Seven of those staff members are in patient care positions.

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