Call to increase COVID testing on the Peninsula

San Mateo County leaders are pushing to increase COVID-19 testing on the Peninsula. The goal is to help lower the county's case rate so more businesses can reopen. The county manager said many establishments are hanging by a thread.

One such business in jeopardy of closing is a valued bowling alley in San Mateo, around for 63 years. Patrons are fighting to keep it afloat

Bel Mateo Bowl in San Mateo first opened in 1957. To its patrons, it’s more than just an entertainment center but a place where people no matter race, age or status can gather to bowl.

“They host programs for developmentally disabled adults,” said Chuck Witt of Redwood City. “They have juvenile youth programs and they have programs for senior citizens.”

Considered a community asset, it was shut down in March with no clear timeline for reopening. Savings are depleting with no income. It costs tens of thousands of dollars to maintain the alley. The business is on the verge of permanent closure.

 “From South San Francisco to Cupertino,” said Tamlyn Murata of South San Francisco. “There are no other bowling centers around.”

“Every single day I get messages from residents of this county who say they are no longer able to hold on

their business has gone under,” said San Mateo County Manager Mike Callagy.

Callagy said one thing the county can do is more testing. Benefits are two-fold. Testing can isolate those who have the virus and help bring case rate down.

Case rate and positivity rate determine if a county can move up in the state’s coronavirus tier system. Right now, San Mateo County is in red hoping to move to less restrictive orange.

“Testing is crucial to the future of San Mateo County not only keeping in the red but potentially moving to the orange in some point in time,” said Callagy.

In the orange tier, family entertainment centers like Bel Mateo Bowl can reopen at 25 percent capacity. Patrons said owner Mike Leong spent his life building the business.

“He cares about this center and the people who bowl here more than anything,” said Tamlyn Murata of South San Francisco.

More than $30,000 spent on Covid safety measures including lane dividers, thermal scanners and touchless bathrooms.

“What I’ve seen here is a far safer environment than what I’ve seen outside of California,” said Joshua Tajiri of San Jose.

The owner is too proud to ask for help so these patrons are asking for him before it’s too late.

“It’s been a part of my life since I was a little kid and to see it go would be pretty awful,” said Witt.

A gofundme has been established to help save Bel Mateo Bowl and the livelihoods of its 30 employees.

Meantime, San Mateo County has a goal to test 5,000 individuals a week. Starting Friday, a new testing site at the San Mateo County Event Center can test 1,000 people a day.