Last Wednesday, April 22nd, Mendocino County, Mendocino Coast Clinics, Coastal Street Medicine, Mendocino Coast Hospitality Center and the City of Fort Bragg collaborated to launch community surveillance testing for COVID-19. Surveillance testing is used to determine if undetected community spread is present. No one tested showed any signs of the virus. That’s the point. It is this type of testing that helps us to understand the spread or lack of spread of COVID-19. It is the testing we need to safely ease or lift the shelter-in-place orders.
The Fort Bragg Group was provided 120 COVID-19 test kits. While this is a small number when you consider the number of residents in our City, it represents 16.2% of the total 739 test taken as of April 27th. Trying to figure out how best to allocate 120 tests in our community was one of the challenges. Originally, the idea was to open it to anyone who wanted to be tested. Almost everyone wants to be tested, so crowd control was a large concern. The better question is whose results benefit the data and the community. The answer is those individuals who interact with the public and are at the greatest risk.
These tests were administered in the City to asymptomatic essential workers and other vulnerable populations. The essential workers included local law enforcement officers, health care staff, delivery personnel, food service workers, and social service providers. Prior testing was conducted at Sherwood Oaks and all test results were negative.
Coastal Street Medicine and Mendocino Coast Hospitality Center administered the first round of testing to those experiencing homelessness, those who are being sheltered at local motels, and the staff in direct contact.
The second round of testing occurred in the parking lot of Mendocino Coast Clinics. Testing was done on essential workers from our community. City staff scheduled appointments to allow for efficient traffic flow and to ensure everyone stayed in their vehicles so as not to put anyone at risk. At the end of the afternoon, 71 individuals were tested via oral swab (mouth not nose). These tests were expedited to the Sonoma County lab by Mendocino County Public Health. Twenty tests were analyzed there and the other 100 were sent to University of California San Francisco (UCSF) Medical Center.
Typically, the results for the COVID-19 swab test take up to 48 hours, we hoped for results on Friday and it is now Tuesday, almost a week later. As of writing this article, we know that the first 101 tests processed were negative and one was damaged in transit and couldn’t be used. We await the results of the other 18 tests. Like testing across the country, the labs are backed up and one major limiting factor is the lack of swabs.
— Tabatha Miller, Fort Bragg City Manager