San Francisco Community Health Center
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What is COVID-19?

Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) is an infectious disease caused by a newly discovered coronavirus.

Most people infected with COVID-19 virus will experience mild to moderate respiratory illness and recover without requiring special treatment.  Older people, and those with underlying medical problems like cardiovascular disease, diabetes, chronic respiratory disease, and cancer are more likely to develop serious illness.

The COVID-19 virus spreads primarily through droplets of saliva or discharge from the nose when an infected person coughs or sneezes, so it’s important that you also practice respiratory etiquette (for example, by coughing into a flexed elbow).

Preventing & Reducing the Spread of COVID-19

There is currently no vaccine to prevent COVID-19 or specific options for treatment.. The best way to prevent illness is to avoid being exposed to this virus. The virus is thought to spread mainly from person-to-person between people who are in close contact with one another (within about 6 feet). This occurs through respiratory droplets produced when an infected person coughs or sneezes. These droplets can land in the mouths or noses of people who are nearby or possibly be inhaled into the lungs. Older adults and people who have severe underlying chronic medical conditions like heart or lung disease or diabetes seem to be at higher risk for developing more serious complications from COVID-19 illness. Every person has a role to play. So much of protecting yourself and your family comes down to common sense:

  • Washing hands with soap and water.
  • Clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces daily. If surfaces are dirty, clean them using detergent or soap and water prior to disinfection.
  • Avoiding touching eyes, nose or mouth with unwashed hands.
  • Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue or your elbow.
  • Avoiding close contact with people who are sick.
  • Staying away from work, school or other people if you become sick with respiratory symptoms like fever and cough.
Cover your mouth and nose with a cloth face cover when around others
  • You could spread COVID-19 to others even if you do not feel sick.
  • Everyone should wear a cloth face cover when they have to go out in public, for example to the grocery store or to pick up other necessities.
    • Cloth face coverings should not be placed on young children under age 2, anyone who has trouble breathing, or is unconscious, incapacitated or otherwise unable to remove the mask without assistance.
  • The cloth face cover is meant to protect other people in case you are infected.
  • Do NOT use a facemask meant for a healthcare worker.
  • Continue to keep about 6 feet between yourself and others. The cloth face cover is not a substitute for social distancing.


On March 16, 2020,  San Francisco joined with there other Bay Area Counties on a legal order directing their respective residents to shelter at home for three weeks from March 17 to April 7. On March 31, the Bay Area order was extended to May 31, 2020. CA Governor Gavin Newsom announced a statewide shelter-in-place order on April 28 without a specific end date. The order limits activity, travel and business functions to only the most essential needs. Please read San Francisco Ordinance.

Safer Sex Tips

We at San Francisco Community Health Center care about you and want to keep you safe during the COVID-19 pandemic, which includes sex. We understand that people are sexual and engage in sexual acts at this time. The San Francisco Department of Public Health provided guidelines to reduce your risk of COVID-19. Please read more Tips-Safer-Sex.

If You Feel Sick

The most common symptoms of COVID-19 are fever, dry cough, and tiredness. Some patients may have aches and pains, nasal congestion, sore throat or diarrhea. These symptoms are usually mild and begin gradually. Some people become infected but only have very mild symptoms. Most people (about 80%) recover from the disease without needing hospital treatment. Around 1 out of every 5 people who gets COVID-19 becomes seriously ill and develops difficulty breathing. Older people, and those with underlying medical problems like high blood pressure, heart and lung problems, diabetes, or cancer , are at higher risk of developing serious illness. However anyone can catch COVID-19 and become seriously ill. Even people with very mild symptoms of COVID-19 can transmit the virus. People of all ages who experience fever, cough and difficulty breathing should seek medical attention.

COVID-19 Testing

If you are a current client of San Francisco Community Health Center, our healthcare providers  will help you determine if you have signs and symptoms of COVID-19 and whether you should be tested. In the early stages of infection, it is possible the virus will not be detected. If you feel you may have COVID-19 symptoms and want to learn more about testing options please call our main line (415) 292-3400.

Unfortunately, we are not a San Francisco city-run testing site and due to our limited capacity to test for COVID-19 we cannot offer screening for symptomatic and asymptomatic people who are not already a San Francisco Community Health Center client. If you would like to get tested in San Francisco please see the testing locations below.

San Francisco Testing Locations


Tenderloin Neighborhood COVID -19 Testing at Glide 


PCR Testing

Samples are taken from places likely to have the virus that causes COVID-19, like the back of the nose or mouth or deep inside the lungs. After a sample is collected, RNA, which is part of the virus particle, is extracted and converted to complementary DNA for testing. The PCR test involves binding sequences on the DNA that only are found in the virus and repeatedly copying everything in between. This process is repeated many times, with doubling of the target region with each cycle. A fluorescent signal is created when amplification occurs, and once the signal reaches a threshold, the test result is considered positive. If no viral sequence is present, amplification will not occur, resulting in a negative result.

Antibody/Serologic Testing

Antibody blood tests, also called serologic tests, check your blood for antibodies that would show if you have had a previous infection. Antibodies are proteins that help fight off germs. A serologic test may not be able to show if you have a current infection, because it can take 1 to 3 weeks to make antibodies after symptoms occur.

We do not know yet if having antibodies to COVID-19 can protect someone from getting infected with that virus again, or how long that protection might last. Scientists are doing studies to answer those questions.

COVID-19 Evaluation and Testing Fees:

Please note: federal law now requires all health insurers (except short-term plans) to cover all costs associated with COVID-19 testing –without imposing any copays or deductibles, and regardless of whether the provider is in-network. This requirement covers the actual test AND the visit (whether in-person or via telehealth) that resulted in the order for the test.

As a Federally Qualified Health Center (FQHC), SFCHC will continue to offer a sliding fee program to patients making below 200% of the Federal Poverty Level (FPL), based only on income and family size. This will apply to  COVID-19 related visits and lab testing. Costs will range from $20-$60, depending on the patient’s income.

For individuals without insurance or with COVID-19 exclusionary plans, who make above 200% FPL, additional resources are available (presumptive Medi-cal and cost reimbursement). SFCHC will work with all individuals to determine coverage options. In some case, patients may be required pay the full cost of testing at $95.



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Additional Resources

This document was developed by a group of organizations that came together to develop a COVID-19 resource for people living with HIV based on the best information available. Please check the version date above to see when it was last updated. More information is learned nearly every day about the coronavirus. This document will be regularly updated as new information and resources become available. For the most up-to-date information, please check online rather than printing this document.

COVID-19 and People Living with HIV FAQ
San Francisco COVID-19 Data Tracker 

Information about confirmed COVID-19 cases, lab testing and hospitalization rates across San Francisco.

San Francisco Bay Area LGBTQ+ COVID-19 Relief

This site is dedicated to provide additional resources for LGBTQ+ people in the Bay Area.