Priority Testing for First Responders & Health Care Workers

Priority Testing for First Responders & Health Care Workers

All City health plans with San Francisco Health Service System (SFHSS)  will provide priority testing for First Responders and Health Care Workers who are insured with Kaiser Permanente, Blue Shield of California or United Healthcare.

First Responders and Health Care Workers who are displaying symptoms of COVID-19 (fever, cough, or shortness of breath) will be prioritized for COVID-19 testing. The process is as follows:

  1. If you are a first responder or healthcare worker who is experiencing COVID-19 symptoms, you should contact your primary care physician’s office.
    1. Kaiser members should call the Advice Line at (866) 454-8855
    2. Blue Shield of California or United Healthcare members should call their primary care physician (PCP). 
  2. You should self-identify as a City and County of San Francisco First Responder or Healthcare Worker and explain your symptoms. They will use that information to prioritize testing for you. 
  3. If testing is necessary as determined by the healthcare provider, the physician will direct the employee to a testing facility where they can receive priority testing.  

In order to assist you in this process with your health care provider, additional resources are also available to support you, including:

  • SFHSS has created a COVID Testing Advocacy Line to assist in accessing your testing benefits with your respective health plan at (628) 652-4650.
  • The public employee nurse triage line is available to you to discuss any symptoms you are experiencing or provide other health guidance. They can be reached at (855) 850-2249. Public safety employees, please contact (866) 932-5321.
  • The Police and Fire Department’s physicians remain available to assist with their employees who may have questions.

COVID-19 Priority Testing FAQ’s

Q: How do I know if I am eligible?

A: Employees providing front line response to COVID-19 qualify for priority testing include the following:

  • Healthcare Providers e.g. Physicians, Nurses, and Respiratory Therapists
  • First Responders e.g. 911 operators, Officers with the Police and Sheriff, and Firefighters

Q: I believe I qualify as a first responder but am not listed above, what do I do If I am experiencing symptoms of COVID-19?

A: Contact your physician for guidance on how to address your symptoms.

Q: Will I have to pay for testing?

A: No. The cost of your testing is covered by your insurance

Q: Where do I go to get tested?

A: Follow your physicians instructions.

Q: If I test positive, but my symptoms are mild and do not require hospitalization, do I need to continue to work?

A: If you are sick, stay home. Follow-up with your physician for instructions regarding quarantine.

Q: How will I know it’s safe for me to return to work?

A: Your physician will help you determine if you are healthy enough to return to work.

Q: Will I receive sick pay if I test positive and cannot report for work?

A: Yes. Paid or unpaid sick leave for illness and quarantine ordered by your doctor or the Public Health Department is available to employees.

Q: What if I don’t have any sick pay?

A: If you have run out of accrued sick leave, your department has discretion to approve use of other accrued leaves, such as vacation, floating holidays, or compensation time. An employee also has the option to use approved sick leave and vacation advance during the COVID-19 emergency.

Q: If my test is negative, should I return to work?

A: Consult your physician for guidance on whether you should return to work.

Q: Is there a limit to how many tests I can receive?

A: Your physician will determine the need for additional testing.

Q: If I test positive, will the people I live with be prioritized for testing as well?

A: Prioritized testing is for first responders and health care workers. Family members concerned about exposure or experiencing COVID-19 symptoms should consult their physician. Their physician will determine if testing is necessary.

Q: I am concerned about my test results and confidentiality, how will this be handled?

A: All employee health information is private, protected information.  Your information will not be shared with your co-workers.

Q: I’m insured with United Healthcare and I don’t have a PCP, what do I do?

A: Go to Login or create your Optum ID. Click on Provider Search. Search for Primary Care Physicians (PCP) who are accepting new patients.

Call the physician’s office and make an appointment to become an established patient.

Q: I have contacted my Physician or Nurse advice line and cannot get through, who do  I contact for help?

A: If you are unable to reach either the your physician or the nurse advice line, you can call the SFHSS COVID Testing Advocacy Line at (628) 652-4650.


Last updated April 16, 2020.