Governor Gavin Newsom arrived at the corner of 24th Street and Capp Street Monday morning to prioritize boosters and celebrate community-based partnerships.
The site was chosen for a purpose: The mission-driven partnership with UC San Francisco, known as Unidos and Salud/United in Health, has become a model for science-led science and community service testing, vaccinations and resources.
“I had the privilege of visiting sites large and small all over the state of California, and you know when sites are distinguished by their excellence,” Newsom said. “This is one of those sites that does the important work we’re promoting here.”
And the numbers spoke for themselves. “On this site, we have offered more than 40,000 vaccines, 4,000 boosters, 700 pediatric vaccines and more than 60,000 tests,” said Susana Rojas, executive director of Calle 24 Latino Cultural District and communications chair of the Latino Task Force.
“This is a true representation of what happens when the community and the scientific minds come together to provide services with dignity, love and respect…when community comes first,” Rojas said.
Funded primarily through private donations and heavy fundraising by UCSF for months, Unidos and Salud has supported more than 7,000 families with Covid-19-related and other comprehensive services.
In the past year, the San Francisco Department of Public Health has stepped in to fund the Alabama Street Resource hub and has become a model for city-funded hubs in the Bayview and the Excelsior that provide food aid and other on-site services such as provide assistance in completing applications for rent and unemployment benefits.
It was more congratulations from Secretary of State Scott Wiener, who also had a hand in the effort from the start. “You’ve saved lives and improved people’s lives,” he said, addressing the Latino Task Force and their partner representatives, including UCSF Chancellor Sam Hawgood, Dr. Diane Havlir, the UCSF study leader, Dr. Joe DeRisi of the Chan Zuckerberg Biohub, which provided early and frequent free testing services, and Dr. Grant Colfax, director of the San Francisco Department of Public Health.
“The mission was hit hard not only by the virus, but also by the economic impact of this pandemic,” said Wiener, noting that $1 million was invested in the state’s Latino Task Force food aid program.
He also praised Newsom for his willingness “to take the political heat and the fallout to do what’s right for the long-term health and well-being of our community” and for “moving forward” and allowing boosters for all adults.
As kids got the jab in the background, not without a cry or two, Newsom reminded the press and community partners that there’s still work to be done today to avoid spikes like last winter’s.
But there was also something to celebrate. As of this morning, California claimed the nation’s lowest Covid-19 positivity rate, at 1.9 percent. “It’s because of the good work you’ve all done,” he said, turning to Unidos and Salud staff and community partners.
He highlighted the progress made in rolling out booster doses and the vaccine for children ages 5 to 11 under the “equity imperative.”
“That’s why we specifically chose this site not only for its effectiveness and success, but also because we’re promoting the importance, especially in the Latino community, of getting boosters and getting vaccinated,” Newsom said.
He cited how only 17 percent of boosters were administered to Latinos in the state, while Latinos make up nearly 40 percent of the state’s population.
“That’s why we’re here,” he said. He announced that new public service announcements (PSAs) and “dozens” of community-based partnerships such as Unidos and Salud will be introduced across the state “in an effort to ensure we reach and close that gap. it is closing.”
The press also raised questions regarding flexibility regarding vaccination requirements for children in schools, vaccine mandates for teachers, new therapies and his approach to tackling shoplifting as seen over the weekend in San Francisco and Walnut Creek.
Newsom emphasized openness and a reliance on scientific evidence for future decision-making regarding childhood vaccine requirements and mandates. “The virus [and mutations] would dictate those terms, and of course we’re not ideological about it,” he said, noting that the state has a framework for personal beliefs, medical and religious exemptions.
In preparing for new treatments and therapies, Newsom emphasized that the strategy would remain focused on prevention: “Boosters are preferred. Vaccines are the preferred strategy. Preventing getting this virus by wearing face coverings is the preferred strategy.”
Like his aggressive approach to the pandemic, Newsom pledged tough action against shoplifting seen this weekend. “There is no empathy, no sympathy for these kinds of criminal gangs and elements, and they must be held accountable,” he said, referring to the efforts of the Organized Retail Theft Program that convened in July and an increased police presence that was asked by retailers that the state will support.
Newsom’s visit ultimately boiled down to how the future of Covid-19 in California will include what it has learned from working with partners involved in community-specific responses such as that of the Unidos and Salud collaboration in southern San Francisco. Local schools and pharmacies will also continue to play a big role in the response, he said.
“There is no substitute for meeting people where they are,” Newsom said, “knocking on doors, literally going to communities, asking people not to come to a location, but to go to them.”