Around 10 Walgreens Locations Have Closed in SF Since 2019 / Vaccine Deadline for City Employees Is Here

It's Wednesday, October 13, 2021

Hey, San Francisco!

Matt Charnock here — The SF Minute's second guest editor. Some of you might know me as the human behind The Bold Italic and SFist (on the weekends). TBH, I’m just glad to be here and for the free snacks.

Oh! Nick will be back to doing his usual grand and groovy things on The SF Minute beginning next week, FYI.

Now… on to the news! And wow: There’s a lot to unpack.

Talk to any one of us SF residents for more than fifteen minutes, and we’re likely to bring up three things: The odious amount of money we spend on rent, how tech companies continue draining the city’s creative soul, and our thoughts on the general decline in quality of life here amid an influx in petty crime and an ever-worsening homeless crisis. The latter subject, however, has been a contentious talking point as of late with drug stores closing left and right in the seven-by-seven.

Or… well, at least those owned by one company in particular: Walgreens

As initially reported by SFGATE, five additional Walgreens locations are expected to close by the end of the year. This will bring the number of properties owned by the second-largest pharmacy store company in the county that have closed in SF since 2019 to at least 10.

The main reason? Uncontrolled shoplifting.

“Organized retail crime continues to be a challenge facing retailers across San Francisco, and we are not immune to that,” said Walgreens spokesperson Phil Caruso to the media outlet. “Retail theft across our San Francisco stores has continued to increase in the past few months to five times our chain average. During this time to help combat this issue, we increased our investments in security measures in stores across the city to 46 times our chain average to provide a safe environment.”

Earlier this year, Walgreens closed a location at 790 Van Ness Ave. citing an increase in crime; according to the Chronicle, up to $1,000 in merchandise was stolen from that location — every single day. And how could we forget about that viral video of a man pillaging the Walgreens on Fell and Gough Streets?

According to ABC7, these are the locations that are expected to close in SF next month:

  • 2550 Ocean Ave. will close on November 8 

  • 4645 Mission St. will close on November 11

  • 745 Clement St. will close on November 15 

  • 300 Gough St. will close on November 15

  • 3400 Cesar Chavez St. will close on November 17

Sensationalism aside, the closing of even more Walgreens locations in San Francisco is a heavy blow to the most vulnerable communities in the city.

Pharmacy deserts — long stretches of urban sprawl that lack convenient access to drug stores or pharmacy outlets that can fill prescription medications — have skyrocketed in number over the past two years. When a community is stripped of its last pharmacy, it doesn't merely mean residents of that area lose convenient shopping. It means they, too, are denied reliable, easy access to healthcare. 

That now-dissolved convenience for a disabled patient to receive medications or vaccines could well cost them their life; it has in the past.

Suffice to say it’s a growing concern among San Franciscans.

When a Walgreens location shutters, its company policy is to have those routinely filled prescriptions moved elsewhere, preferably to a Walgreens store near the recipient of those medications. But that doesn’t always happen.

As is the case in San Francisco, the remaining Walgreens locations in the city selected to satisfy those orders are now responsible for filling an additional store’s quota — creating a bottleneck, which could delay prescription orders that would otherwise be ready on time.

There are also two additional questions raised by Walgreens choosing to shutter another five SF stores: Why didn’t the City step in to help these locations close before it was too late? And why have only two locations operated by CVS — the nation’s single-largest pharmacy store company — closed in San Francisco since 2019, even though they’ve cited having the same problems in the past?

I’m currently looking into answering both those questions… if for no other reason than to have an answer for when I inevitably chat up a freshly-met longtime San Franciscan.

Quick Newsy Bits:

  • It looks like we can expect another mid-October rainstorm to come our way. Early models from the National Weather Service show predicted storms stretching from the San Francisco Bay Area to Redding between October 20 and October 26, bringing with them “moderate” to “heavy rain” — potentially marking an end to this year’s hellacious wildfire season. (Chronicle)

  • The reviews are in: Dear San Francisco' is a resounding hit and a worthy successor to Beach Blanket Babylon. The dazzling 90-minute display of dizzying acrobatics and theater prowess includes no intermission… just good vibes and gobbles of eye candy. (SFist)

  • The Duggan family — who own the two Original Joe's locations in San Francisco and Daly City and, as of 2020, Little Original Joe's — is set to open up a sit-down Mexican-American eatery in West Portal. Unlike the usual Italian cuisine that Original Joe’s is synonymous with, this concept is expected to serve tostadas, tacos, enchiladas, and more Mexican-American favorites (including fresh ceviches and other fish dishes). (Hoodline)

What Else I’m Reading, ATM:

And Also…

I wrote two weeks ago about the fact that around 200 SFPD staff members were applying for religious exemptions from the City’s vaccine mandate. Those SFPD employees had until October 13 to either begin their COVID-19 vaccine series or have their exemption approved by SF’s department of human resources.

Alas, that time has come (well… almost; City employees have until 11:59 p.m. Wednesday to update their vaccine status). At the moment, the latest data from human resources shows about 150 “police employees, sworn officers, and civilian employees” have yet to update their vaccination status. SF’s fire department has also confirmed that 41 fire firefighters are in the same situation, per KTVU.

However, the vast majority — over 90% — of City employees have complied with the vaccine mandate. But SF is, nevertheless, looking into reworking schedules and “move existing resources” elsewhere, should vacancies come up in certain departments.

"We have already worked with those various departments to not only rearrange schedules and move existing resources to those locations but also to speed up our hiring process to accommodate what could potentially be some vacancies," said Mayor Breed.

But just so we’re clear: Vaccines are incredibly efficacious at thwarting a COVID-19 infection and remain effective in reducing your risk of being hospitalized from the disease.

Have a great evening. See y’all Friday! — Matt Charnock

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