The drive to get more COVID-19 testing in San Joaquin County got a boost this week when Planned Parenthood Mar Monte expanded testing through its Tracy clinic to the general public.
Cheri Greven, director of public affairs for Planned Parenthood Mar Monte, said that the Tracy clinic started testing about a month ago in partnership with the city of Tracy and Tracy Unified School District.
A drive-up testing site at McKinley Elementary School, 800 W. Carlton Way, near the Planned Parenthood Mar Monte Tracy Health Center on Tracy Boulevard, initially focused on screening first responders and has steadily expanded since then. Now the site can do as many as 100 tests a day.
“In that pilot phase, allowing us to scale up, we were in limited low-volume outreach,” Greven said. “We began specifically with Tracy police and fire, then expanded to Tracy employees, such as public works and bus drivers, that are essential workers and on the front lines with exposure.”
The clinic continued by testing first responders from other San Joaquin County agencies, Tracy Unified School District employees, other home health care and skilled nursing facility workers, and then warehouse workers.
“So we’ve been, for the last month, opening this site to different phases of essential workers, so that we could get us to the point where we are today, where we can scale up to the entire community, whether you’re a front line essential employee or not, or if you are symptomatic or not,” Greven said.
As of Monday, the day before it opened the testing site to the public, the clinic had tested 281 people. The tests, which go to Quest Diagnostics for examination and are returned within 48 hours, show that so far the workers tested are clear of the coronavirus.
“We’ve had zero positive,” Greven said.
City of Tracy spokeswoman Carissa Higginbotham noted that 175 of those tested were city workers, mostly police officers and firefighters.
“We just passed the message on to employees and let them know that opportunity existed and it’s completely voluntary if they wanted to participate,” she said.
The city has about 600 employees, including 492 full-time workers. Higginbotham said that 144 employees are working from home during the COVID-19 quarantine.
“It’s definitely been the skeleton crew and the preference is to work from home if you can,” she said, adding that the city continued to await word on when people would be able to return to their offices.
“It starts with ensuring that our staff is healthy and not contributing to the spread of this virus so they can continue coming to work and continue to provide services to the community during this pandemic,” she said.
Greven said that the tests at McKinley are free with no appointment required, from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., except during the hour between noon and 1 p.m. Days that the tests are offered will be listed on Planned Parenthood Mar Monte’s website. Those who want the test must provide identification and insurance information.
As a nonprofit independent clinic operator, Planned Parenthood is reimbursed by insurance company for its expenses. As of last week, the California Department of Insurance notified health insurers that there were to be no bills or copayments for COVID-19 testing.
Greven said that Planned Parenthood Mar Monte was still exploring options for people without insurance, but in the meantime can direct people to those sites that are supported by the county or state.
Last week, Public Health Services of San Joaquin County announced that it had added another free testing site in addition to the San Joaquin County Clinic in French Camp. That’s a drive-up, appointment-only site affiliated with Verily's Project Baseline. Now the county has opened a walk-in site at the Lodi Public Library, 201 W. Locust St., in Lodi.
The Lodi site, operated by OptumServe, also requires an appointment but is open to anyone, including homeless individuals. Those without insurance can have the cost of the test paid by the state.