‘Free, safe and easy’: Santa Clara County says COVID-19 testing available to all residents

May 20, 2020, 9:22 p.m.

Local leaders announced that free COVID-19 testing will be made available to all Santa Clara County residents, even those who are asymptomatic, at testing centers located at the County Fairgrounds and PAL Stadium in East San Jose. Testing is provided by Project Baseline, a partnership between the state of California and Verily. 

“Anyone who wants a test can get tested here at PAL Stadium in San Jose,” said Mayor Sam Liccardo at a press conference. “You do not need health insurance, you do not need to pay and you do not need symptoms. You can get tested here.”

“Testing is free and you can be asymptomatic,” said Cindy Chavez, president of the Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors. “We want people to get tested, it’s so important that you do.”

It’s unclear whether or how the potential for increased testing could affect plans for Stanford’s fall quarter. Stanford spokesperson E.J. Miranda told The Daily that increased testing is “a positive step forward,” but ultimately the decision depends on many factors. 

“We are continuing to assess a range of issues and options regarding the fall quarter, and are considering numerous factors in our planning, including the availability of reliable COVID-19 testing, potential treatments and the ability to maintain physical distancing and other safety measures,” Miranda wrote.

To be eligible, residents must be at least 18 years old and sign a COVID-19 public health authorization form and lab consent. Residents who wish to be tested must fill out an application online

Chavez said that if signing up online poses a challenge, residents can “call any of your elected officials’ offices” in order to receive help in signing up. 

The expansion of testing is part of a countywide goal to reach 4,000 tests a day, according to Liccardo. The testing sites can handle about 300 tests daily, and are “hoping to scale.”

Several leaders credited Verily for their efforts to step up testing. John Propst, head of COVID-19 testing operations at Verily, said that their goal is to increase testing statewide.

“This early engagement reflects the commitment that we at Verily share with the leaders standing with me today, and that is to help support the public health needs of his community,” Propst said.

Santa Clara County COVID-19 testing officer Marty Fenstersheib noted that testing is “free, safe and easy.”

“We are no longer using a long swab that goes to the back of your throat; that’s rather uncomfortable,” Fenstersheib said. “We are going to be using a nasal swab and it will be self-administered.” 

Chavez added that the PAL stadium testing site will allow for both drive-thru and walk-in services, and the County Fairgrounds will allow for drive-thru testing. Both sites will operate Monday through Friday, from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.

The location of the PAL Stadium testing site is strategic. East San Jose has seen a disproportionate number of deaths and cases, according to Fenstersheib. 

“In the last couple of weeks, 40% of the cases we’ve identified were in East San Jose,” Fenstersheib said. 

This announcement comes days after the county modified the shelter-in-place order to allow some retail businesses to resume operations and open for curbside pickup while maintaining social distancing. As part of this change, outdoor activities such as car parades, outdoor museums, historical sites and publicly-accessible gardens will be allowed to reopen. 

“As we move towards opening the county more in the coming weeks and months, we know that more people will be out and about and their risk for getting infected goes up,” Fenstersheib said. “As we do that, the plan is to do a lot of testing so we catch any of these little fires that flare up.”

More information is available at sccfreetest.org

Contact Ujwal Srivastava at ujwal ‘at’ stanford.edu.

Ujwal Srivastava '23 is from Palo Alto, Calif. He is a Science & Technology Desk Editor interested in the intersection of healthcare and technology. He is majoring in Computer Science on the Biocomputation track. Contact him at usrivastava 'at' stanforddaily.com.

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