San Francisco Preps for COVID-19 Surge; Mayor Calls Trump's Comments Racist and Divisive

London Breed and city officials tour San Francisco's Emergency Operations Center, temporarily located in the Moscone Center.  (Mayor's Press Office)

San Francisco is expanding its staff and beefing up efforts to slow the spread of the new coronavirus, Mayor London Breed announced during a Thursday press conference.

City leaders expect a surge in COVID-19-related hospitalizations in the coming weeks. Health officials urged residents to forgo visits to urgent care and hospital emergency rooms, except for “life threatening emergencies.”

In preparation for the spike, San Francisco has hired 70 nurses and is hosting a job fair this weekend to hire more “on the spot,” said Grant Colfax, San Francisco’s health department director.

“We know that the virus is here in our community and yet we still must fight aggressively to interrupt it,” he said.

Breed also pushed back on President Donald Trump’s repeated references to the new coronavirus as "the Chinese virus.”

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“The president continues to stand by his messaging around his labeling of the coronavirus and we want to make it clear that that is not something that is acceptable or tolerated here in San Francisco," the mayor said. “The longer we perpetuate this divisiveness, this racism, the words that continue to allow for the focus to be on that particular issue, the less we are able to deal with this together.”

In apparent defiance of critics, Trump opened his Thursday task force briefing, declaring that, "We continue our relentless efforts to defeat the Chinese virus."

I really thought that we were already past the xenophobia that has existed since the beginning of learning about the coronavirus and its origin,” Breed continued. “It is very unfortunate that this continues to be an issue and it is offensive -- not only to our Chinese community here in San Francisco; it’s offensive to our city as a whole, where we pride ourselves on our diversity.”

San Francisco is moving its Emergency Operations Center from the location on Turk Street to the city's downtown convention complex, Moscone Center. Breed said the move will help San Francisco meet “a significant challenge to our city.”

The convention center has more space and will allow staff to remain six feet apart from one other, per the city’s orders to practice “social distancing.”

San Francisco now has 70 confirmed cases of COVID-19, according to Breed. The mayor reiterated that San Franciscans must follow the city’s mandate to stay home except for essential outings and exercise.

“We want people to shelter in place and stay at home,” she said. “In every single instance. We are only on Day 3 and this is an evolving situation.”