Miller Report for the Week of November 2nd, 2020
By William Miller, MD – Chief of Staff at Adventist Health – Mendocino Coast Hospital
COVID surveillance testing in our community is important. This testing is for people who think that they may have been exposed or who are just curious to know. Usually, these are people without symptoms, but it could be for someone with symptoms. A doctor’s order is not required for this type of testing. Community surveillance testing is an important aspect of our health department’s efforts to monitor the spread of the infection. It is also key to helping us move from more restricted levels of our businesses to less restricted.
For the past several months, Mendocino Coast Clinic (MCC) has offered this test free as part of a program put on by UCSF through a generous grant from the Chan-Zuckerberg Foundation. Unfortunately, UCSF canceled the program at the end of October, which was originally planned to go through the end of the year.
Dr. Andy Coren, our Mendocino County Health Officer, is working to develop a program to take its place. For starters, he was able to convince UCSF to extend the program by an additional two weeks to give us time to set up an alternative. “The UCSF testing was never guaranteed, but we were in a good place for six months,” he said, “Hopefully, the next plan will be more beefed up and even more accessible.”
One possibility that is being looked at is to expand the existing OptumServe program, which is continuing to do testing in Ukiah at the Fairgrounds. This could involve using a traveling team to bring testing to the various smaller communities in the County, thus eliminating the need for people to travel to Ukiah. “We want it to be convenient for people to get the test, it is important that it be offered near to home,” Dr. Coren added.
On August 26th, California Governor Gavin Newsom announced a $25 million contract with the Massachusetts diagnostic company PerkinElmer to build a new lab in Valencia, California, dedicated to COVID testing. Construction was completed on October 30th and it is expected to start operations in mid-November. The projection is that by March 2021 it will be running at full capacity and performing 150,000 tests per day with a 24-48 hour turn around. The OptumServe testing is likely to be conducted through this lab.
I spoke with Lucresha Rentoria of MCC. They will continue to offer the free COVID test from UCSF through November 12th. You can call 707-964-1251 to make an appointment to be tested on either Wednesday or Thursday. The turn around for the results is currently 2-3 days.
Free testing through OptumServe remains available in Ukiah. You can call 888-634-1123 to schedule an appointment for testing there or visit the Mendocino County website.
Both clinics, MCC and North Coast Family Health Center (recently renamed Adventist Health Medical Offices) are offering testing for symptomatic persons with a physician or provider’s order.