Free coronavirus testing center in Hayward draws hundreds on first day, some turned away

  • March 25, 2020

Fever of 100.4 degrees needed to get a test, officials say

Read this on The Mercury News

HAYWARD — Hundreds of sick people lined up near Fire Station No. 7 in Hayward on Monday hoping to get tested right then and there for coronavirus at a first-of-its-kind testing center.

To qualify, they had to have a fever of 100.4 degrees Fahrenheit or higher, officials said, but that appeared to be the main hurdle. The tests were free, and people didn’t need a doctor’s slip to take them.

“It’s for anybody, regardless of residency. You don’t have to live in the city of Hayward, you don’t have to be a citizen,” Capt. Don Nichelson of the Hayward Fire Department said. “We’ll take anybody from anywhere,” he added.

The city of Hayward set up the testing site across from the fire station at 28270 Huntwood Ave. in partnership with Avellino Labs, a private biotechnology firm based in Menlo Park.

Officials say they can test up to 370 people each day, and the site will be open every day for three weeks — welcome news for Bay Area residents who have tried to get tested through their health care provider or county health department, only to be turned away because of a shortage of tests or because they didn’t exhibit severe enough symptoms.

Tests were being administered by Hayward firefighters and paramedics, while screening was being done by firefighters, EMTs from United Ambulance, and fire science students from Chabot College, officials said.

Those who were tested could get results in a day”s time and in some cases as soon as six hours later because test kits are frequently sent to Avellino’s dedicated lab to be processed.

Eric Bernabei, the head of sales and marketing at Avellino, said Monday those being tested at the Hayward site should “absolutely” be confident in the accuracy of the results they get back.

Avellino has been given the green light to run tests on people while the company goes through the FDA’s emergency use authorization process and waits for a final letter of approval from the agency.

Bernabei said the company had to meet a strict set of standards that show its test kits meet the FDA’s threshold for “accuracy and repeatability.”

“We are permitted under the EUA (emergency use authorization) to run clinical samples at this time, until the approval is received, similar to Stanford and UCSF, who are also waiting for their letter (of approval),” Bernabei said.

This represents one of the first examples of a new effort to expand testing, with cities teaming up with commercial companies to offer help to those with mild or moderate symptoms but no easy access to a physician.

Yet even these strategies are restricted because commercial labs, like public labs, have limited tests and processing power.

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