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August 14, 2020

Covid-19 testing sites still scarce in Watsonville

WATSONVILLE—Obtaining a Covid-19 test in Watsonville is still a challenge for some, as long waits and limited options are plaguing those that might have been exposed and are asymptomatic but need a test to find out if they can safely return to work.

The OptumServe Community Testing Site at Ramsay Park is one of the few options for those that are not members of the various health organizations in Santa Cruz County such as Sutter Health, Kaiser Permanente, Dignity Health and Planned Parenthood.

But wait times for a test at that site, which is open Wednesday-Sunday from 7am to 7pm, have recently ballooned to as long as 10 days.

An appointment is still needed to receive a test. Appointments can be made online at https://lhi.care/covidtesting or by calling 1-888-634-1123.

The state-run site has the capacity to conduct 144 tests per day, and county spokesman Jason Hoppin said it is consistently meeting its maximum daily number of tests.

The site last week offered walk-up testing but stopped that service after only one day. During that day it surpassed its daily capacity by roughly 40 tests and was using up its state-allocated supply of personal protective equipment (PPE) and swabs too quickly.

“They become a little too overwhelmed,” Hoppin said. “They had to go back to the normal capacity to sustain their normal supply chain.”

The county has not heard of any concrete plans to expand that testing site’s capacity, Hoppin said. He also said it is unlikely that the state will set up a secondary site in the county.

The state also has sites that do not require a physician’s referral in Gilroy, Salinas and Hollister.

The County Health Center on Freedom Boulevard is offering testing for patients of the county’s clinics as well as those with or without insurance that have been exposed to Covid-19, Hoppin said.

Cabrillo College’s Aptos campus is also offering testing for those with or without insurance but only to their students and staff.

Salud Para La Gente spokeswoman Sigolene A. Ortega said the community clinic is conducting tests for established patients and new ones who are symptomatic and cannot access testing at their primary care physician’s office. Asymptomatic people, however, are being forwarded to the Ramsay Park site.

Tests are only done by appointment. To make an appointment call 728-0222.

Hoppin said the county has encouraged local health care providers to provide testing for asymptomatic individuals who have been exposed, but the county cannot force them to do so. Most providers rely on commercial testing labs, and Hoppin said the turnaround for those test results has slowed. Scarcity of PPE and other testing supplies such as reagents and swabs continues to be an issue, Hoppin said.

“The commercial labs are not going to be a solution to the kind of testing that we need, so we are looking at some ways to increase the availability of testing through public clinics,” Hoppin said.

The county is conducting more than 100 tests per day, and it has conducted more than 1,700 to date.

There are 153 active cases in Santa Cruz County, including 55 that have been identified over the last three days—a single-day record of 23 on Monday, 19 on Tuesday and 13 Wednesday.

Watsonville has been hit the hardest by Covid-19, as more than half (209) of the county’s total case count (410) have been identified in the county’s southernmost city.

There have been 10 people hospitalized with the disease over the last 14 days, including one patient who is in the ICU, according to state data.

Tony Nuñez
Tony Nuñez
Managing Editor Tony Nuñez is a longtime member of the Watsonville community who served as Sports Editor for five years before entering his current role in 2019. A Watsonville High, Cabrillo College and San Jose State University alumnus, he covers the city, business, housing, entertainment and more.

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