Santa Clara County has announced a major uptick in COVID-19 testing as the region prepares for a gradual reopening of businesses and services.
Local leaders unveiled the plan earlier this week, launching new testing sites in San Jose at the Police Athletic League (PAL) Stadium and the county fairgrounds. Both sites are operated by Verily, a private lab owned by Alphabet, Inc., Google’s parent company.
Any county resident who wants to get tested for the novel coronavirus disease can now sign up online at projectbaseline.com/COVID19 or by calling 2-1-1.
“Anyone who wants a tests can get tested here at PAL stadium in San Jose,” San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo told reporters Wednesday. “That is, if you are in the city of San Jose you do not need health insurance, you do not need to pay, you do not need symptoms.”
Those who schedule an appointment can drive up to the PAL Stadium or fairgrounds sites—in addition to the two other appointment-only locations at James Lick High in San Jose and Christopher High in Gilroy—and administer their own test by swabbing the inside of their nose for 10 seconds in each nostril.
“We want people to get tested, it’s so important that you do,” county Board of Supervisors President Cindy Chavez said. “The test is free. Please come and get a test.”
COVID-19 testing is now free! All workers who have frequent interaction with the public should be tested once a month, even if they have no symptoms. Testing is free, safe and confidential. Find a location: https://t.co/0MrIz3mR8b pic.twitter.com/ALgvDLy1Cb
— Santa Clara County (@SCCgov) May 21, 2020
The county is now focusing testing efforts on its most vulnerable and at-risk populations in East San Jose and Gilroy. According to the latest tally, the county has confirmed 2,492 COVID-19 cases and 138 deaths out of 54,179 tests.
“Today we are making history in making sure that this health crisis doesn’t continue to impact one of the most vulnerable communities, not just in San Jose, but really in the entire county,” said San Jose Councilwoman Magdalena Carrasco, who represents San Jose’s East Side. “Of course a pandemic understands no boundaries, but this is the vulnerable community—our essential workers, folks that have little access to medical care, who have continued to work because of different conditions.
Local officials must ensure that testing is accessible, she added. That means breaking down barriers to entry and making it free.
The county’s new head of COVID testing, Dr. Marty Fenstersheib, said the South Bay is “in the midst of a pivot,” with this new increased testing capacity. He also pointed out that about 40 percent of the county’s identified cases have come from East San Jose.
“Up until now, we’ve been really testing people who have been symptomatic and those contacts of those people who have been symptomatic,” he said. “And now, we’re moving to testing people who are at risk who are asymptomatic or without any symptoms whatsoever, who are in areas that may put them at an increased risk.
Fenstersheib also mentioned that for every infected person, about 20 to 40 others would have likely come into contact with that person and possibly been exposed, which warrants increased contact tracing and surveillance of where that person has been.
“And as we move towards opening the county more over the next weeks and months,” he continued, “we know that more people will be out and about and their potential for increasing their risk for getting infected goes up.”
Also at the center of the increased testing, Fenstersheib said, are people who are regularly in public and maybe can’t maintain regular physical distancing, such as first responders, grocers, pharmacists, childcare workers and bus drivers.
With the county now relaxing some restrictions—allowing curbside pickup for retailers, for example—Fenstersheib offered a warning to the public during Wednesday’s news conference: “Expect some additional cases as we begin to open up.”