SALINAS VALLEY — Monterey County launched two new testing sites for Covid-19 in Greenfield and Salinas last week, having announced their locations on May 2 in response to Gov. Gavin Newsom’s directive for California to open 80 more testing sites.
The Greenfield community testing site, which opened today, May 6, is at the Greenfield Branch of Monterey County Free Libraries, 315 El Camino Real. The Salinas community testing site also opened today at Alisal High School, 777 Williams Road.
“These testing sites will help Monterey County dramatically increase testing availability for individuals who have had limited access to Covid-19 tests up until now,” said Elsa Jimenez, director of health for Monterey County.
The tests offered at the two county sites check for active Covid-19 in a patient’s system, and not antibodies, which differs from the tests provided by Greenfield on April 29.
“It’s completely different programs,” County Supervisor Chris Lopez said about the county tests being introduced to Greenfield by the county and state. “What we’re doing is FDA approved. It’s all the diagnostic testing. It’s the brain tickle, going all the way to the back of your head to get the best sample possible, so we know as definitively as possible as accurate as these tests are, whether you have it or not.”
A nasal or throat swab will be collected and specimens will be sent to a FDA-approved laboratory for Covid-19 PCR testing. Establishment of community diagnostic testing sites is powered through a partnership between the State of California with OptumServe, the federal government health services business of Optum, a health services company.
Lopez said current infrastructure and supplies has the county estimating the ability to collect 130 tests per day per site, meaning 260 or more per day.
“It’s going to give us a better picture of what’s actually happening and better data to be able to make our decisions,” Lopez said.
He said improved numbers being brought out will allow government leaders to respond to different needs, and added that he hopes the majority of the confirmed infected are merely asymptomatic.
The test sites will currently prioritize healthcare providers and first responders, with planning underway for prioritizing other frontline and essential workers before the service is available to the general public. The general public will be invited to register for an appointment the week of May 19.
“We’re going to start with frontline folks to make sure they get tested so they can feel safe going home to their families, including our nurses who deserve that and our police officers,” Lopez said.
Testing will be by appointment only. Appointments can be made by calling 1-888-634-1123 or visiting https://lhi.care/covidtesting. Phone registration will only be used for people without internet access.
Individuals will need to provide their insurance card and valid identification at the time of check-in. A unique identification number will be provided for those that do not have a valid identification.
For those without any insurance, the State will cover the full cost of testing. There is no out-of-pocket cost for anyone receiving service.
Test results will be available 36 to 48 hours after testing. Individuals with a positive Covid-19 test will be contacted by an OptumServe staff member. The Monterey County Health Department will also contact individuals with a positive Covid-19 result to initiate contact tracing and investigation process.
Lopez said a clear test isn’t a reason to expect full immunity, which is why continuing to follow CDC health guidelines is important.
“Even if you test negative one day, doesn’t mean you can’t pick it up somewhere else,” Lopez said. “You still have to retain that caution, wear that face mask, do everything you can to keep yourself, your family and your neighbors safe because one day you could be negative and the next day you could be positive.”
To determine where to locate new testing sites, the state looked at both rural and urban areas where Californians would have to travel between 30 and 60 minutes to reach an existing testing site or hospital. That information was then evaluated based on under-served populations, to address known disparities, and median income, so residents have access to testing regardless of socioeconomic status.
“The increased availability of Covid-19 testing will benefit our entire community, by reaching those with limited access to services in Salinas and South County,” Lopez said. “In South County, the Greenfield location provides a central location for residents to access tests in an equitable manner.”
Lopez credited Monterey County residents with their efforts in following guidelines to flatten the infection curve.
“I’m really proud of our communities and the way they’ve stepped up to isolate socially, physically, distance, to make sure that we’re about to draw down our numbers,” Lopez said. “That’s the success we’ve seen. A pill’s not going to solve the underlying issue in a lot of cases. The community are the ones that have stepped up to make the changes that have given us such low numbers.”
At maximum capacity, OptumServe will be able to support up to 80 testing sites at one time throughout the state, increasing total testing capacity by more than 10,500 tests per day.