(Image courtesy of FDA)

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San Francisco city leaders on Monday announced $5 million in new investments to protect vulnerable populations from the coronavirus.

The new funding aims to reduce the risk of exposure to COVID-19 for people living in shelters, single-room occupancy hotels, and permanent supportive housing.

The funding will go toward expanded cleaning in shelters, resource centers, and SROs; increased meal programs, expanded shelter hours to encourage homeless people to stay inside; and enhanced meal delivery programs for people in SROs.

Public Health Order

In addition to the funding, city leaders also called for a Public Health Order for all city-funded SROs, shelters and Navigation Centers to establish required cleaning and contagion mitigation protocols in SROs and other shared settings. Protocols include the cleaning of high-touch surfaces and bathrooms, and making hand washing supplies and sanitizers available, among other measures.

“We know that many of our most vulnerable residents — those who could get very sick or die if they contract COVID-19 — are living in congregate and semi-congregate settings like shelters and single-room occupancy hotels,” Mayor London Breed said in a statement.

“We have to do more to keep these places clean and work to keep people healthy as this disease spreads within our community. This emergency fund and this Public Health Order are part of our work to respond aggressively to the challenges presented by COVID-19 each and every day.

“Everyone should continue to follow the best health practices, and we will continue to do the work to deliver more protections for those in need,” she said.

Dr. Grant Colfax, San Francisco’s director of health, said, “Our chief concern is for vulnerable populations who are most at risk of getting very sick, or dying, if they get COVID-19.

“That is why we are recommending that people over 60, or with certain underlying health conditions, stay home as much as possible. For vulnerable people in SROs or shelters, this investment will help them limit their outings, by assuring that food and shelter is available, and that congregate settings are clean environments,” he said.

In addition to the Public Health Order and the $5 million investment, the city will also provide financial support for the cleaning of privately owned SROs.

As for people who are homeless and unsheltered, the city and its nonprofit partners are providing outreach, including education on hand washing.

The city’s renewed pledge to protect vulnerable populations comes just as 13 cases have now been confirmed in the city.

Price gouging

Also on Monday, San Francisco District Attorney Chesa Boudin issued a consumer alert on price gouging as the city is in a state of emergency over the virus.

According to Boudin’s office, when a state of emergency is declared, vendors are prohibited from raising the price of consumer goods or services by more than 10 percent.

Goods include things like food, emergency supplies, medical supplies, building materials and gas. It also includes services like repairs or construction, cleanup, transportation, storage and lodging services.

Anyone found to be in violation of the laws against price gouging could be subject to criminal prosecution.

“The last thing anyone should have to worry about in a crisis is being cheated,” Boudin said. “People who try to profiteer from a public health emergency will be held accountable.”

Anyone who is a victim of price gouging or who has information about price gouging in the city is asked to contact the district attorney’s consumer protection hotline at 415-551-9595.

Text message alert system

The city also recently launched of a new COVID-19 public information system text message alert system.

The system will allow city officials to send real-time information to the public concerning the novel coronavirus in San Francisco.

The public can sign up to receive the text messages by texting COVID19SF to the short code: 888-777.

Officials said the system, which is being administered through the citywide alerting system AlertSF, will let public health and safety officials issue information and instructions about the novel coronavirus and will also be used to communicate the potential cancellation of major events and public facility closures.

* Dennis Culver contributed to this report.