BERKELEY, Calif. (KTVU) - Kaiser Permanente broke ground on a COVID-19 testing site that when finished, will process upwards to 70,000 tests each week.
Dangling wires, incomplete ceilings, and construction workers wearing masks litter the facility now. But it’s a thing of beauty in the rush to finish the next phase in the fight against the coronavirus.
“We are building out lab space so that we can expand options to support our patients during the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Dr. Brian Missett, head of Kaiser’s lab services.
Kaiser Permanente is constructing the $14 million 7,700 square foot laboratory on 2nd Street in Berkeley. The site is an existing Kaiser warehouse that had sat dormant for months. The normally lethargic permitting process was streamlined to five days.
“They were probably using the fact that there’s an officially declared state of emergency,” said Kelly Snider, an urban & regional planning professor at San Jose State University. “That gives the decision-makers a lot of authority to deviate from existing policies, such as first-come, first-served. But when there’s a state of emergency, then you’re allowed to focus on health and safety priority first.”
When completed on June 1, the one-story facility will be to process 70,000 COVID-19 tests per week. Missette said the new lab is crucial in turning the corner to a post-COVID world.
“We know that more testing needs to be available so that people can be healthy, and begin to return to more of what is more of a 'normal life,' he said.
There will be 12 to 20 staffers at the facility to test Kaiser patients for the virus and other illnesses.
“We can get our patients tested rapidly. Get the answers back to our clinicians so that they can make decisions on treatments that are needed for our patients,” said Dr. Jeff Schapiro, a regional microbiologist for Kaiser Permanente.
Although the process of converting the older warehouse into a lab will take only 60 days, hospital officials said it will continue to function as a medical testing facility long after this pandemic has passed.