Santa Clara County is launching a mobile health van offering easy-to-access testing for residents worried they may have contracted the coronavirus. Its first stop? A visit to Mountain View on Memorial Day.
The mobile testing unit will officially launch on Monday, May 25, and will be at the at the Mountain View Community Center from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. No appointment or paperwork is required, and the tests are free.
"We're finally getting some traction on testing," Santa Clara County Supervisor Joe Simitian said in a statement Friday. "It's not yet as much as I'd like to see, and it's certainly not as fast as I'd like to see, but it's progress."
County supervisors and city officials throughout Santa Clara County have complained in recent weeks about the slow rate of testing. The widespread availability of tests is a mandatory benchmark for easing stay-at-home restrictions, yet the county has fallen well short of its immediate goal of 4,000 tests per day.
In the past, the county has also been opaque about who is eligible to get tested and where those tests are administered, which Simitian said has added to the frustration. Some testing sites have been available only to those deemed essential workers and, during the early days of the outbreak, only to those showing symptoms consistent with COVID-19 infection.
Public health officials say universal access to testing can slow the spread of the virus, as those who test positive can stay home and isolate themselves from others. Those who contract COVID-19 can be asymptomatic and show no signs of illness, adding to the need for an accurate test even for those who appear to be well.
Though anyone can get a test at the Memorial Day event, the Santa Clara County Department of Public Health is specifically encouraging anyone over the age of 60 or with pre-existing health conditions to get tested, along with those who know they have been around someone who has tested positive for COVID-19. People who have frequent contact with the public, including health care and food service workers, are being asked to get tested monthly, while those working in skilled nursing and long-term care facilities are asked to get tested every two weeks.
Ultimately, county officials say the goal is to provide 15,000 tests each day to track and contain the virus.
Simitian said the county is seeking to expand testing to permanent health centers in Mountain View as well, including El Camino Hospital. El Camino Healthcare District's board of directors agreed this week to spend $1 million on community-based COVID-19 testing for residents in the area. Up until now, the hospital has focused on testing its patients and staff.
The Planned Parenthood clinic on California Street in Mountain View is also expected to provide tests for the coronavirus in a partnership with the county. Testing at the clinic could start as early as June.
The Memorial Day testing event in Mountain View will be located at the aquatic center portion of the Mountain View Community Center, located at 201 S. Rengstorff Ave. More information is available at SccFreeTest.org.
Find comprehensive coverage of the Midpeninsula's response to the new coronavirus by Palo Alto Online, the Mountain View Voice and the Almanac here.