A mobile COVID-19 testing site debuted Friday, with more than 140 county residents who signed up to be tested for the coronavirus from the safety of their car.
One of the first 50 to get tested in the Del Norte High School parking lot was the site’s first “celebrity,” KPOD broadcaster Mike O’Brien. After scraping the inside of his upper nasal passage with a lengthy, uncomfortable cotton swab, O’Brien joked, “I feel like I scraped my brain.”
Then remembering he was being filmed for a Facebook live video, he added, “It felt great. It was a piece of cake.”
The testing site was crewed with Crescent City employees, Sutter Coast Hospital nurses working with Verily Life Sciences and volunteers with Team Rubicon Disaster Response.
After debuting Friday and Saturday, the site’s switches to its normal schedule of 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday.
To get tested, residents ages 18 and older need to register and make an appointment online through the Baseline COVID-19 scheduling program at www.projectbaseline.com/COVID19. Both residents from Del Norte County and the Brookings area can sign up, according to Del Norte Office of Emergency Services Public Information Officer Bill Steven.
Those without Internet access or who aren’t English proficient should call the Department of Health and Human Services from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday at 707-464-3191 or go to their office at 880 Northcrest Drive, in Crescent City.
Drivers are checked in at one station, keeping windows rolled up, to confirm registration. Then pull forward to the “hot zone” where nurses hand over the swabs for the registered person to self administer the test.
Shauna Finley, a member of the Team Rubicon incident management team, said samples are sent to Quest labs and residents should get their test results back between two to five days.“If it’s negative, they’ll send the results via email.
They’ll do phone calls for positive results,” Finley said.
As of 5 p.m. Friday, according to Public Health’s website, a total of 1,344 tests have been administered to county residents, with 45 confirmed cases of the coronavirus, 1,084 negative results and 215 pending results. There have been 19 recoveries, which represents positive patients who have completed the required self-isolation period and are no longer showing signs or symptoms of the virus.
According to county Public Health officials, as testing capacity increases, tracing each one administered will be more difficult. They added the website’s statistics are only the approximate number of tests.
Finley said DNHS will host the testing site for about 30 days, adding since it’s state-sponsored and California officials are working to expand testing availability, that’s negotiable. Finley also said county and state officials are working to take the mobile testing site to nearby communities in Del Norte County.
Finley explained that Team Rubicon is an international disaster response organization with 110,000 volunteers that provides relief to communities following emergencies, including wildfires and hurricanes. She added, however, a pandemic is new for them.
Finley said Team Rubicon and Verily Life Sciences began staffing a community-based testing site in Lake County before moving to the San Francisco area. Del Norte County is the third testing unit she’s helped set up.
“We have age restrictions. We’ve limited our responders to anybody under 65,” said Finley, a resident of Napa Valley area. “For this specific (event) we keep people as close to home as possible.”