Walk-up COVID-19 Test Center Opens at Shasta College

Steve Gibson, a KQMS reporter, undergoes a COVID-19 test. Photos by Jon Lewis.

A state-sponsored COVID-19 test site opened its doors Thursday in the Shasta College gymnasium, allowing Shasta County public health officials to ramp up the testing of healthcare providers, first responders and other essential workers.

The walk-up testing site, one of more than 80 established in California to focus on underserved communities, is being operated by OptumServe, a health care company that works with state and federal agencies.

Tests are available daily from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. for healthcare and other essential workers by appointment. Those interested should visit https://lhi.care/covidtesting  for an appointment. Workers without internet access can call 888-634-1123.

“This testing site will help Shasta County dramatically increase testing for some of our most at-risk community members – our healthcare and other essential workers,” said Dr. Karen Ramstrom, Shasta County’s health officer, in a prepared statement.

McKenna Adams, the event oversight administrator at the test site, said the goal is to provide frontline workers a convenient and safe venue for testing. About 50 tests had been administered by noon on Thursday and another 61 were expected to arrive for tests in the afternoon, Adams said.

McKenna Adams prepares a swab for testing.

To allow for social distancing protocols, there are only three workers at the test site. Adams said a test can be completed in a matter of minutes. The test involves a thin swab that is inserted in the nasal passage far enough to reach the nasopharyngeal cavity. The swab is sealed in a tube, double bagged, and picked up three times daily by Quest Laboratories for processing. Results, which are delivered via text message and/or email, are available in 48 to 72 hours.

The test site, most likely still at Shasta College, should be available to the public in a week or two, Adams said. The best source for that information is www.shastaready.org. Anyone with COVID-19 symptoms should contact their healthcare provider for testing or call Shasta County Public Health at 225-5591 to be screened and scheduled for a mobile testing appointment.

Steve Gibson, a reporter with radio station KQMS, offered himself as a volunteer to be swabbed and said the procedure “tickled a part of my head I’ve never felt before. It was just a little tickle, but a strange tickle.”

Mike Mangas, an anchor with Redding TV station KRCR, also underwent a swabbing to generate a video opportunity. Neither swab from the reporters was submitted for testing, Adams said.

The walk-up test site is expected to be open to the public in a few weeks.

Cost of testing is covered by the state. When you register for an appointment, the form asks for insurance info but a copay is not collected. If people are not sure if they qualify as a healthcare or essential worker, they are encouraged to use the online appointment form to find out.

Shasta County and COVID-19

According to the Shasta County Health and Human Services Agency, as of 6 p.m. Thursday, there were 31 cases of COVID-19 with one patient currently hospitalized. Another six were in isolation and 14 were quarantined. There have been four deaths attributed to the coronavirus. Of the 1,397 tests administered so far, 1,366 were negative.

In other COVID-19 news, Gov. Gavin Newsom this week ordered the closure of Orange County beaches. The decision was prompted in part by the size of crowds spilling onto beaches in Orange and Ventura counties last weekend during a heat wave. Newsom said the beachgoers’ action was an example of “what not to do” as California works to ease statewide stay-at-home restrictions.

“This virus doesn’t take the weekends off. This virus doesn’t go home because it’s a beautiful, sunny day around our coasts,” Newsom said in an interview with the San Francisco Chronicle newspaper.

The governor’s six-point plan for easing restrictions in the state requires the following conditions:

• Ability to test, contact trace, isolate, and support the exposed

• Ability to protect those at high risk for COVID-19

• Surge capacity for hospital and health systems

• Therapeutic development to meet the demand

• Ability of businesses, schools, and childcare facilities to support physical distancing

• Determination of when to reinstitute measures like Stay-At-Home

Jon Lewis

Jon Lewis is a freelance writer living in Redding. He has more than 30 years experience writing for newspapers and magazines. Contact him at jonpaullewis@gmail.com.

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