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COVID-19 Batters A Beloved Bay Area Community Health Care Center

MARIN CITY, Calif. ― A small band of volunteers started the Marin City Health and Wellness Center nearly two decades ago with a doctor and a retired social worker making house calls in public housing high-rises. It grew into a beloved community resource and a grassroots experiment in African American health care.

“It was truly a one-stop shop,” said Ebony McKinley, a lifelong resident of this tightknit, historically black enclave several miles north of the Golden Gate Bridge. “And it was ours.”

By early 2020, the center had a multimillion-dollar annual operation with two clinics, in Marin City and Bayview-Hunters Point, a predominantly black community in an industrial section of southeastern San Francisco. The clinics offered primary care geared to low-income residents of color, as well as access to dentists, psychotherapists, a substance abuse clinic and chiropractor.

In Marin City, ladies shouldering empty tote bags lined up on Tuesday afternoons

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The Inside Story Of How The Bay Area Got Ahead Of The COVID-19 Crisis

Sunday was supposed to be a rare day off for Dr. Tomás Aragón after weeks of working around-the-clock.

Instead, the San Francisco public health officer was jolted awake by an urgent 7:39 a.m. text message from his boss.

“Can you set up a call with San Mateo and Santa Clara health officers this a.m., so we can discuss us all getting on the same page this week with aggressive actions, thanks,” said the message from Dr. Grant Colfax, director of San Francisco’s Department of Public Health.

“Will do, getting up now,” Aragón responded.

It was March 15, two days before St. Patrick’s Day, a heavy partying holiday and nightmare scenario for public health officials.

The novel coronavirus was spreading stealthily across the San Francisco Bay Area and public health officials were alarmed by the explosion of deaths in Italy and elsewhere around

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