A partnership with a Menlo Park genetics laboratory firm has allowed Hayward to open a dedicated center offering free COVID-19 coronavirus testing on Monday.
The COVID-19 Testing Center at the city's fire station at 28270 Huntwood Ave. can handle up to 370 tests a day, "But we don't expect it to get that high," said city spokesman Chuck Finnie.
On Tuesday, the criteria for one being tested was expanded. Initially, tests were intended for those displaying symptoms, first-responders, and health care workers with recent suspected exposures to the novel coronavirus.
The criteria now include the following:
- Fever above 100 degrees
- Shortness of breath or other respiratory symptoms;
- Recent travel to Europe or Asia;
- Recent exposure to confirmed or suspected coronavirus;
- Other chronic diseases or conditions, such as blood disorders, kidney or liver disease, diabetes, heart, lung or neurological disease, and compromised immune system;
- Over the age of 65;
- Currently or recently pregnant;
The intent is "to take pressure off hospital emergency rooms, provide quicker answers for recently exposed first responders and health care workers, and to enhance the region's capacity to suppress new transmissions through isolation after testing," the city said in an announcement Sunday.
"We don't want the wondering and the worried to come - they need to stay home," Finnie said. "We want sick people to come."
He added, "It's not a test people are going to want to take unless they have to. It's not pleasant."
The test involves swabbing of nasal cavities and the back of the throat.
Hayward Fire Department firefighter-paramedics will staff the center, with assistance from ambulance company emergency-medical technicians.
"No referral from a medical doctor is required to be screened," the city said.
The center will operate from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily and free and open to "anyone regardless of where they live or immigration status," according to the announcement.
"We know it's going to be chaotic on the first day," Finnie said. People will first undergo a two-part screening for illness, which includes fever, cough and/or shortness of breath, and/or other respiratory symptoms.
At an initial drive-up station, people will be asked about symptoms, then either cleared to leave or sent to a walkup tent to be screened for illness.
The city has appropriated funding for the center with the hope of reimbursement from county and state public health agencies.
The center is made possible through a city partnership with Menlo Park-based Avellino Lab USA Inc., a company that specializes in "gene therapy and molecular diagnostics with a focus in precision medicine for eye care."
The laboratory will analyze the tests and "Results can be available in as little as six hours or the next day in most cases."
Finnie said Avellino is a civic-minded company that is supplying the tests "at a very, very good price" and is also looking for similar partnerships with other jurisdictions to open additional centers. He said officials from Fremont were assessing the Hayward center on Sunday.