Providing wide range COVID-19 testing has been challenging, local and county officials said last week as the first of several neighborhood sites opened at the St. Paul Missionary Baptist Church.
Public Health Officer Dr. Olivia Kasirye thanked Dr. Ephraim Williams, pastor of the Oak Park-area church, for partnering with the County to become a location for “those who really need to be able to access testing and education as well.”
Testing has been available at a drive-through site at Cal Expo and at hospitals such as the UC Medical Center and Kaiser, but members of the African American community have voiced concerns about accessibility, the collection and reporting of personal information and results, and barriers to the testing, including the lack of computer technology that had been required to secure appointments at the Cal Expo site.
Testing is inside at St. Paul and available to people regardless of whether or not they’ve experienced symptoms. The site is now offering free testing by appointment on Tuesdays and Fridays from 9:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. for those ages 16 and older, living in zip codes 95817 and 95820. St. Paul is located at 3996 14th Avenue. To make an appointment, call (916) 628-7076 Monday through Friday from 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m.
A second neighborhood site will open at the Robertson Community Center in the North area on Thursday, May 21, with the help of the Mutual Assistance Network and UC Davis Medical Center. Testing will be available on Wednesdays by appointment from 9:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. at 3525 Norwood Avenue. Testing will be open to all ages in the communities served by the center. To make an appointment, call (916) 567-9567.
A third testing location will open on Friday, May 22 at the La Familia Maple Neighborhood Center, located at 3301 37th Avenue in Room 7. Testing will be available for all ages who live in the community served by the center on Fridays from 9:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. To make an appointment, call (916) 990-1311.
Sites have varying ID requirements.
“We are hoping that this will be able to relieve some of the fear of people in the community about what this testing is about, ‘how I can get it and what does it mean,’” Dr. Kasirye said.
“It’s been a long journey,” she said of expanding testing access.
At the beginning of the pandemic, Dr. Kasirye said the County was only able to process 20 tests per day. Expansion will mean 100 per day initially and eventually 200 per day that may come as a result of increased availability and increased exposure as the county and state begin to relax restrictions for being out in public.
Dr. Kasirye said the new testing locations were selected based on population, not previous exposure or infection rates. However, zip codes surrounding both the St. Paul and La Familia sites do have some of the highest number of COVID-19 positive cases. The 95817 zip code, near St. Paul has had 75 people test positive for the virus.
Mayor Darrell Steinberg called testing “essential” to not only keeping people safe and healthy, but also to moving forward and hitting mandated targets for ending the pandemic shutdown.
By Genoa Barrow | OBSERVER Senior Staff Writer