U.S. Surgeon General Jerome M. Adams (center) meets with public health officials and Mayor Kevin Faulconer (left). Image via Twitter

Vice Admiral Jerome M. Adams, the U.S. Surgeon General, visited San Diego to tour several local sites this week which have helped homeless and minority communities during the COVID-19 pandemic, the city announced Wednesday.

Adams, on a tour of California, met with San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer and county public health officials Tuesday to tour Operation Shelter to Home at the San Diego Convention Center and the diagnostic testing service developed by Helix — two operations intended to help protect San Diegans during the COVID-19 global pandemic.

“In recent weeks and months, I have visited several states across the country to provide an update on our federal whole-of-America response to the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as to get an update on efforts at the state and local levels,” Adams said.

“My time in San Diego has been incredibly productive and given me unique insight to bring back to Washington. I especially appreciated the opportunity to learn about these local efforts to protect both the most vulnerable among us, the minority populations who have been more susceptible to the virus, and the cross-sector partnerships supporting the health of San Diego’s citizens.”

Operation Shelter to Home launched April 1 to protect San Diegans experiencing homelessness by allowing for greater physical distancing, strict health guidelines and proactive COVID-19 testing in the empty convention center. The shelter has been a temporary home for more than 1,000 people every night and has kept a positive COVID-19 testing rate of less than 1% among shelter clients, staff and volunteers.

“The San Diego region has come together like never before to address one of the worst public health and economic crises in modern history,” Faulconer said. “We’re proud to share the success of Operation Shelter to Home with Dr. Adams and how this could serve as a national model in housing those experiencing homelessness.”

Individuals at the convention center are screened daily by temperature check and tested regularly for COVID-19. According to the city, 21 residents and staff at the shelter have tested positive out of more than 7,700 tests administered. The shelter is a collaborative effort between the city, county, Regional Task Force on the Homeless, San Diego Housing Commission, convention center and several shelter providers.

“From the pandemic’s outset, the county recognized innovative partnerships and a health-equity approach were critical to our response,” said Nick Macchione, director of the county’s Health and Human Services Agency. “It was an honor to be able to show Dr. Adams how that is taking place with our countywide approach to keeping the vulnerable homeless population safe and in taking advantage of federal life sciences investment for a strong COVID-19 testing relationship with the team at Helix.”

Following a tour of the shelter, Adams then visited Helix, a San Diego- based lab that launched a COVID-19 diagnostic testing service in early June.

Since July, Helix has partnered with the county to expand testing capacity to the South Bay, the PedEast pedestrian crossing at the San Ysidro Port of Entry and the Mexican Consulate in San Diego. The public-private partnership increased countywide testing capabilities by 2,000 tests per day.

— City News Service