#HotelsNotHospitalBeds – Stopping the Spread of COVID-19
When I first began helping to negotiate the procurement of hotel rooms for isolation and quarantine in March, it was always my understanding that our most vulnerable residents – particularly those unable to “stay home” – would have access to those rooms to ensure their ability to comply with the Shelter in Place mandate. While the Department of Public Health warned of the highly transmissive nature of congregate settings, the Administration denied this threat of spread, and then moved forward with a misguided plan to create costly mega shelters. Those plans were quickly scrapped in favor of transferring some shelter residents into hotel rooms.
I joined with Supervisors Haney, Ronen, Preston and Walton to quickly draft emergency legislation mandating the City procure (either through contracts or Executive commandeering) 8,250 hotel rooms for first responders, people living in SRO residential hotels and homeless shelters, and people experiencing homelessness on our streets. UCSF doctors and public health experts joined the call to action, reminding the Administration that quarantining our disadvantaged neighbors doesn’t just save the lives of our poor and disenfranchised – it actually helps prevent our hospitals from succumbing to a catastrophic surge in their need for intensive care units.
Shelter providers signed on to transfer their existing contracts and deploy staffing to hotels, while UNITE Here Local 2, which represents hotel and hospitality workers, pledged to work with the City to put custodial and hospitality staff back to work. The Budget & Legislative Analyst confirmed that state and federal reimbursements would cover over 90% of the cost of rooms through the end of the State of Emergency. Ultimately, the tragic outbreak at the MSC South Homeless Shelter was entirely preventable in a crisis where every hour counts.
Thankfully, yesterday the Board of Supervisors unanimously passed our emergency ordinance, which the Mayor has 10 days to sign into law. In addition, I introduced a supplemental appropriation to immediately fund the remaining cost of the rooms, and will be working with Budget & Finance Chair Sandra Lee Fewer to ensure minimal impact to our General Fund.
MSC South’s infection rate was a whopping 73%, and we have also seen an alarming uptick in our SRO hotels, with over 32 buildings reporting confirmed COVID-19 cases. The speed with which the virus is attacking our congregate settings is an urgent warning to act quickly. So let’s get to work and get San Franciscans indoors as soon as possible.