Coronavirus: Hotels for homeless quarantine, nurse hiring blitz, police enforcing shelter-in-place in San Francisco

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By Kate Larsen, ABC 7 News

San Francisco Mayor Breed’s office held a press briefing on Monday, to discuss compliance with the City’s shelter-in-place order, concerns about healthcare worker staffing and protection, and how the City plans to isolate thousands of homeless people.

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) — San Francisco Mayor London Breed’s office held a press briefing on Monday with leaders from multiple departments, to discuss compliance with the city’s shelter-in-place order, concerns about healthcare worker staffing and protection, and how the San Francisco plans to isolate thousands of homeless people.

San Francisco and the entire Bay Area is leading the way with quarantine solutions, including how to isolate homeless people who get sick or test positive for COVID-19.

On Thursday, San Francisco’s Human Services Agency moved four homeless people, who were tested for coronavirus, into hotel rooms.

“This will be a very common occurrence. We do not want people who do not need to be hospitalized to be there simply because they can’t isolate,” said Trent Rohr, the director of HSA.

Rohr’s department is working on leasing 500 San Francisco hotel rooms by the end of the week, and 3,500 rooms over the next several weeks.

The rooms are to quarantine homeless people and those living in communal environments, like single-room occupancy hotels, who are sick.

Capacity will not be increased at the Embarcadero Navigation Center.

“We have about 2,000 single adults in our shelter system and navigation centers right now. We are going to be reducing capacity in our existing system and moving them to shelters that we will pop up in locations throughout San Francisco,” said Rohr.

Some of the city’s largest hotels, like those on Nob Hill and in the Financial District have been responsive to the city’s request for rooms.

Thousands of additional rooms could be reserved for first responders.

“We don’t want our healthcare workers who are on the frontlines to go home, potentially infect others, be infected in their communities and not be able to work, so we are standing up hotels for them as well,” explained Rohr.

San Francisco hotels are all close to empty or closed right now.

Rohr said on Wednesday, there were just seven guests at Fairmont.

ABC7 news reporter Kate Larsen asked Rohr if the City was paying fair market value for the rooms and Rohr said they were currently negotiating.

Once and if quarantined guests occupy the hotels, hotel staff would still do cooking and deliver meals to guests by leaving them outside their door.

DPH would likely contract with workers to do laundry and room maintenance and cleaning in order to comply with CDC regulations.

Security guards would also be present at hotels to ensure people are in isolation.

Mayor Breed and SFPD Chief Bill Scott, are say they are focused on voluntary compliance, but say there will be consequences for those who continually break the shelter-in-place order, which is a misdemeanor.

“We have to balance common sense, civil liberties, with the necessity to stop this virus,” said Chief, Bill Scott, said his officers will enforce the shelter-in-place for both individuals and non-essential businesses, who repeatedly break the order.

“We’ve worked with the City Attorney on a tight protocol on when to enforce, and that enforcement can be a citation, it can be an arrest…and if it’s a continuing offense, that person can be taken to jail.”

Chief Scott and Mayor London Breed said that much of their work during the first three days of the shelter-in-place, has been about education, rather than enforcement.

“We have people who speak multiple languages who are doing the outreach to those businesses to make sure that they understand that they will need to close as a result of this order,” said the Mayor.

Chief Scott says if you see people or businesses you feel are not complying with the shelter-in-place order and you are concerned, you can call 311, and the City will respond.

“We need as many nurses as we can get,” said Dr. Grant Colfax, Director of San Francisco’s Department of Public Health. Dr. Colfax said they plan to immediately hire more than 50 nurses in the next week.

ABC7 news reporter Kate Larsen asked Dr. Colfax about numerous reports from health care workers at hospitals and clinics, who say they do not have the personal protective equipment they need, like N95 masks.

“The information that I have is that healthcare workers who need the protection are getting the protection they need as of this time. We are concerned about PPE going forward, that is a clear priority for us,” said Dr. Colfax.

A lot of people have been posting on social media about donating protective gear and masks, but DPH says those donations are tricky because for example, N95 masks need to be fitted to the user.

DPH says if you feel compelled to give, you can donate money at