Two East Bay Women Make Sure Some of the Most Vulnerable Have Access to COVID Testing

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Two East Bay women are being hailed as heroes for their efforts to make sure some of the most vulnerable groups in the area have access to COVID-19 testing.

It’s a labor of love for Frances Shepherd, who moved to the Bay Area 61 years ago when she was just 11 years old.

“Wherever we go, and wherever the need is, the 72-year-old said. “We try to meet it.”

She works day and night making sure her community is protected as tests run low and infections soar. 

Shepherd’s been testing communities in need since 2020, first as a volunteer for the non-profit Community Organized Relief Effort, and now as a paid staff member.

And last week, as quick and convenient COVID tests became nearly impossible to find, Shepherd and co-worker Mia Felix jumped into action setting up a test site at Arroyo High School to test teachers.

“There was an outbreak, evidently, and they wanted us there, and they weren’t on the calendar, so Mia and I went to test ourselves,” said Shepherd.

CORE, as the organization is known, serves underserved communities around the world during disasters and other times of need.

They’ve been testing as many as 1,200 people per day at a Hayward site since September, and more than 2,000 daily across the East Bay.

“We have a full house, and we just want to be safe,” said Tolan Hill of Hayward.

Hill and his family have been tested there before and when he heard about the effort the testers have been putting in, he was grateful.  

“That’s what they say, ‘going above and beyond,’ he said. “They’re going above and beyond to help as many people as they can.”

The women also took mobile test sites to East Bay homeless shelters and extended care centers.

The organization wants to provide more free testing where it’s needed most, and they have the supplies but need more people.

Starting wages for these test site workers is $20 per hour.

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