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To ease pressure at hospital ERs, cities start testing for COVID-19

Menlo Park company Avellino Lab has created test that's being offered to the public as well as at-risk health care personnel

Bay Area cities are taking up the mantle to test their first responders, health care workers and even members of the public for COVID-19 using technology from a Menlo Park company.

Avellino Lab USA, Inc. on March 9 received U.S. Food and Drug Administration validation for its COVID-19 test on an emergency basis. The company, which specializes in gene therapy and molecular diagnostics, especially for rare genetic eye diseases, quickly adapted its technology to develop a rapid polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test to look at gene markers and the ribonucleic acid (RNA) — snippets of genetic material — of SARS-CoV-2, known commonly as the novel coronavirus. Results can be processed in four to seven hours, Eric Bernabei, chief sales and marketing officer, said by phone on Friday.

Avellino is currently working with the cities of Hayward and Fremont at city-run sites so that first responders, health care workers and people who are sick or were recently exposed to the disease can be quickly tested. The sites are among the first in the Bay Area where testing is being done by local municipalities. Most other COVID-19 testing thus far has been set up by clinics, hospitals and county public health departments.

Avellino began testing with the city of Hayward starting March 23 and in Fremont on Friday. Officials sought a way to take pressure off hospital emergency rooms, provide quicker answers to recently exposed first responders and health care workers and to improve the region's ability to suppress new transmissions through isolation after testing, authorities of those cities said in statements.

In addition to first-responders and medical personnel, the testing sites are open to the public. The free screening is available to people who are concerned about having the virus, regardless of where they live or their immigration status, officials in both cities said.

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On Friday afternoon at the Fremont Fire Tactical Training Center on Stevenson Boulevard, people who arrived at the testing site stayed in their cars. Under a small, white canopy, firefighter-paramedics in white, protective covering and masks screened patients for symptoms of the coronavirus.

To receive a swab test, the patient must have symptoms of the coronavirus, including a fever of 100 degrees, a cough and shortness of breath. Those with the symptoms are then swabbed through their nasal cavities and the back of the throat by firefighter-paramedics or nurses. Nearby, the medical team is supported by ambulance company emergency medical technicians (EMTs).

The swab is immersed in a liquid-medium-filled vial, which kills the virus but preserves the genetic material. It is sealed and sent to Avellino where it is tested. From swab to transport, sterilizing the outside of the building after the batches of samples arrive, testing and confirming the data, the turn-around time is on average under 48 hours, Bernabei said.

"We're pacing ourselves as we ramp up," he said.

The results are reported to the individual who was tested, their primary care physician and local public health authorities in the person's county of residence. The results are added to the county's daily positive case updates and shared with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), according to Hayward authorities. People who test positive are given instructions on how to isolate themselves and steps to control further transmission of the virus.

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Hayward authorities said the testing center is outfitted with enough kits to test up to 350 people a day. Of 1,254 people who were among the first to be tested at the Hayward center, 130 were positive for COVID-19.

Bernabei said the swab tests tell when people have the active virus, whether they show symptoms or not. The information can help control the spread of the virus by identifying those who should be in quarantine.

In contrast, a different kind of test, for antibody antigens, is done through a blood sample. Those tests are good for identifying actively infected populations and those who have had the virus. The problem with finger-prick tests that use blood samples is they don't show evidence of the virus for the first six to 14 days of infection because it takes time for the body to make antibodies after exposure to the disease, he said.

Bernabei said the company has goals to triple its staff and to increase to 7,000 tests per day with plans to ramp up to 200,000 tests per month, but there's no hard timeline to reach those levels. Much depends on "having the right partners and investments," he said.

Avellino is solely focused on COVID-19 testing at this time.

"We have suspended all other test product lines and are only focused on our COVID-19 testing until the crisis is over," Bernabei said.

About the testing sites: The Hayward testing center is open Tuesday to Sunday, 9 a.m.-6 p.m., at Hayward Fire Station #7, 28270 Huntwood Ave.

The Fremont testing site is at the Fremont Fire Tactical Training Center, 7200 Stevenson Blvd., daily 10 a.m.-5 p.m. or until the maximum number of tests are completed for the day. Drive-up only.

------

Find comprehensive coverage on the Midpeninsula's response to the new coronavirus by Palo Alto Online, the Mountain View Voice and the Almanac here.

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To ease pressure at hospital ERs, cities start testing for COVID-19

Menlo Park company Avellino Lab has created test that's being offered to the public as well as at-risk health care personnel

by / Palo Alto Weekly

Uploaded: Fri, Apr 3, 2020, 10:49 pm

Bay Area cities are taking up the mantle to test their first responders, health care workers and even members of the public for COVID-19 using technology from a Menlo Park company.

Avellino Lab USA, Inc. on March 9 received U.S. Food and Drug Administration validation for its COVID-19 test on an emergency basis. The company, which specializes in gene therapy and molecular diagnostics, especially for rare genetic eye diseases, quickly adapted its technology to develop a rapid polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test to look at gene markers and the ribonucleic acid (RNA) — snippets of genetic material — of SARS-CoV-2, known commonly as the novel coronavirus. Results can be processed in four to seven hours, Eric Bernabei, chief sales and marketing officer, said by phone on Friday.

Avellino is currently working with the cities of Hayward and Fremont at city-run sites so that first responders, health care workers and people who are sick or were recently exposed to the disease can be quickly tested. The sites are among the first in the Bay Area where testing is being done by local municipalities. Most other COVID-19 testing thus far has been set up by clinics, hospitals and county public health departments.

Avellino began testing with the city of Hayward starting March 23 and in Fremont on Friday. Officials sought a way to take pressure off hospital emergency rooms, provide quicker answers to recently exposed first responders and health care workers and to improve the region's ability to suppress new transmissions through isolation after testing, authorities of those cities said in statements.

In addition to first-responders and medical personnel, the testing sites are open to the public. The free screening is available to people who are concerned about having the virus, regardless of where they live or their immigration status, officials in both cities said.

On Friday afternoon at the Fremont Fire Tactical Training Center on Stevenson Boulevard, people who arrived at the testing site stayed in their cars. Under a small, white canopy, firefighter-paramedics in white, protective covering and masks screened patients for symptoms of the coronavirus.

To receive a swab test, the patient must have symptoms of the coronavirus, including a fever of 100 degrees, a cough and shortness of breath. Those with the symptoms are then swabbed through their nasal cavities and the back of the throat by firefighter-paramedics or nurses. Nearby, the medical team is supported by ambulance company emergency medical technicians (EMTs).

The swab is immersed in a liquid-medium-filled vial, which kills the virus but preserves the genetic material. It is sealed and sent to Avellino where it is tested. From swab to transport, sterilizing the outside of the building after the batches of samples arrive, testing and confirming the data, the turn-around time is on average under 48 hours, Bernabei said.

"We're pacing ourselves as we ramp up," he said.

The results are reported to the individual who was tested, their primary care physician and local public health authorities in the person's county of residence. The results are added to the county's daily positive case updates and shared with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), according to Hayward authorities. People who test positive are given instructions on how to isolate themselves and steps to control further transmission of the virus.

Hayward authorities said the testing center is outfitted with enough kits to test up to 350 people a day. Of 1,254 people who were among the first to be tested at the Hayward center, 130 were positive for COVID-19.

Bernabei said the swab tests tell when people have the active virus, whether they show symptoms or not. The information can help control the spread of the virus by identifying those who should be in quarantine.

In contrast, a different kind of test, for antibody antigens, is done through a blood sample. Those tests are good for identifying actively infected populations and those who have had the virus. The problem with finger-prick tests that use blood samples is they don't show evidence of the virus for the first six to 14 days of infection because it takes time for the body to make antibodies after exposure to the disease, he said.

Bernabei said the company has goals to triple its staff and to increase to 7,000 tests per day with plans to ramp up to 200,000 tests per month, but there's no hard timeline to reach those levels. Much depends on "having the right partners and investments," he said.

Avellino is solely focused on COVID-19 testing at this time.

"We have suspended all other test product lines and are only focused on our COVID-19 testing until the crisis is over," Bernabei said.

About the testing sites: The Hayward testing center is open Tuesday to Sunday, 9 a.m.-6 p.m., at Hayward Fire Station #7, 28270 Huntwood Ave.

The Fremont testing site is at the Fremont Fire Tactical Training Center, 7200 Stevenson Blvd., daily 10 a.m.-5 p.m. or until the maximum number of tests are completed for the day. Drive-up only.

------

Find comprehensive coverage on the Midpeninsula's response to the new coronavirus by Palo Alto Online, the Mountain View Voice and the Almanac here.

Comments

resident
Old Palo Alto
on Apr 4, 2020 at 11:37 am
resident, Old Palo Alto
on Apr 4, 2020 at 11:37 am
9 people like this

Is any testing open to the public in northern Santa Clara County? We should not be encouraging people to drive across the bay at this time.


Sue Dremann
another community
on Apr 4, 2020 at 12:12 pm
Sue Dremann, another community
on Apr 4, 2020 at 12:12 pm
7 people like this

All testing sites in Santa Clara County thus far are by doctor referral. It should be noted that even at city sites you will NOT get the COVID-19 test if you don’t have a fever of at least 100 and other symptoms.

People are probably better off doing a virtual/telemedicine visit from their home computer to their doctor. Stanford, PAMF, Kaiser, etc. all offer them and you can sign up on their websites. The doctor would be able to assess if you need a COVID test and do a referral to a testing site.


Anon
Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 4, 2020 at 3:22 pm
Anon, Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 4, 2020 at 3:22 pm
36 people like this

It is disappointing to compare this to the testing that was/is being done in South Korea within the same time frame. Why can't California/US get testing ramped up? By March 14th, South Korea was testing 12,000 patients/day and had tested over 260,000 people.Web Link


resident
Old Palo Alto
on Apr 4, 2020 at 6:05 pm
resident, Old Palo Alto
on Apr 4, 2020 at 6:05 pm
15 people like this

We're not going to get this disease under control until we have widespread testing to measure and control its spread. Health care in this country is shameful.


Carlito waysmann
Old Palo Alto
on Apr 5, 2020 at 4:36 pm
Carlito waysmann, Old Palo Alto
on Apr 5, 2020 at 4:36 pm
3 people like this

Is like going to war with a slingshot. A thorough testing(infected, infected asymptomatic, acquired immunity)should be done on the whole population to really get the full picture of the situation.
Right now you can only be tested if you have a fever of 100 degrees or more, basically a reactive rather than proactive .
There has been a lot of data regarding this disease during the past 3 weeks, fresh information, some from American research institutions,some from retired American epidemiologists, some from researchers abroad, is available for anyone interested to access, as we have some time in our hands is up to us to look for them or believe what dr Fauci, Birxs and the Surgeon general tell you.

Interesting is the fact , that the WHO , CDC, are using outdated information from 1930.

That should tell you something.


Liz Gardner
Mayfield
on Apr 6, 2020 at 3:00 pm
Liz Gardner, Mayfield
on Apr 6, 2020 at 3:00 pm
1 person likes this

How are our County's homeless population getting access to testing? They are most vulnerable and most likely will not seek medical attention when showing signs of Covid-19 illness. Are they invited to roll up to any of these sights with tier bicycles, trailers, RV's to be part of this county wide Surveillance ? Please be transparent about who gets to be part of this particular testing.


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