Oakland opens COVID-19 testing site for health care workers, grocery store employees

Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf and community partners on Monday opened a COVID-19 coronavirus testing site for direct service providers, such as health care workers, grocery store and food bank employees, homeless outreach workers and others who work directly with the public.

The new drive-through testing site in the parking lot of the Henry J. Kaiser Convention Center at 10 10th St., near Lake Merritt, supplements the testing for first responders and Brown & Toland physicians that the city began on March 20.

Schaaf said the tests for direct service providers are important because, "We must take care of those who are taking care of us."

The mayor said such workers have an extra risk of contracting COVID-19 because they have direct exposure to dozens of people daily.

"I'm so glad we can do this little bit to keep them well," Schaaf said at a news conference at the testing site.

City Councilwoman Nikki Fortunato Bas said, "There are thousands of front line workers who are taking care of us and they can't shelter in place because they're taking care of us."

Jane Garcia, chief executive officer of La Clinica de La Raza, said the expanded testing "is exactly what we need at this time."

Garcia said that with widespread testing, "I'm hopeful we will be able to contain this pandemic sooner rather than later."

Schaaf said the new site is able to test about 240 people a day, which she said is about the same number tested at the separate site for first responders. But she said it takes two to five days for the test results to be available.

Schaaf said the city and its partners hope to be able to expand the number of people tested at the two sites and open additional testing sites in the near future.

The mayor said that for now, the second testing isn't open to general members of the public but she hopes that might change at some point.

Schaaf said direct service employees who want to get tested must have their employers contact the city and its partners to arrange the tests.

"We really want employers to sign up because we have to do contact-tracing to realize the full potential of the tests," she said.

Schaaf said the testing of first responders in Oakland is going well because the city hasn't seen the kind of spike in COVID-19 cases in police officers and firefighters that has happened in New York City, San Jose and other cities.