The story of San Francisco’s community-led response to the COVID-19 pandemic
In The Heart of Access, frontline community workers, public health staff, and leaders speak about their collaborative efforts to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic in San Francisco’s historically marginalized communities – communities of color experiencing the highest health and social disparities. By following the leadership of community-based organizations, the city attained one of the lowest COVID-associated death rates and highest vaccination rates of any metropolitan area in the US. From day one, community groups formed essential hubs to meet the basic the needs of essential workers, elders, and the unemployed. Drawing from lessons learned during the AIDS epidemic, the San Francisco Department of Public Health (SFDPH) knew early on that community advocacy and leadership would be key in how well the city could respond to a public health crisis. With support from SFDPH, these hubs transformed into low-barrier testing and vaccination sites to equitably serve neighborhoods disproportionately affected by COVID-19. The Heart of Access documents not only the San Francisco model of vaccine access – a network of hyperlocal, culturally responsive vaccine sites led by trusted community ambassadors – but also demonstrates what equitable healthcare access and support could look like.