A guide to COVID-19 testing in Berkeley

Infographic depicting COVID-19 testing locations in the city of Berkeley
Nada Lamie/Staff

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Many students will be returning back to the Bay Area in the coming weeks despite UC Berkeley’s decision to begin the fall semester online. Given the movement into and around the city of Berkeley, many may be wondering if or how they should get tested. 

The city of Berkeley recommends that those with health care providers should contact those institutions regarding arranging an appointment for testing. This should come at no cost as federal and state mandates ensure that patients who have full-service Medi-Cal or commercial insurance in California will have all costs associated with COVID-19 testing and screening waived. 

If you cannot be promptly tested by your provider, there are alternatives. At certain sites, the city of Berkeley and the state of California are offering free testing to anyone, regardless of their insurance status. However, testing is still not widely available — some testing sites may only test individuals with symptoms, people who have had potential exposure to COVID-19 or those without health insurance or an alternative access to care. 

Campus testing 

University Health Services, or UHS, is offering free, limited testing through the Tang Center for UC Berkeley students, faculty or staff, whether or not they are enrolled in the Student Health Insurance Plan. However, to be eligible for testing at the Tang Center, you must be part of a program that necessitates testing, have had close contact with a confirmed case or have experienced symptoms for COVID-19.

The Tang Center, like other testing sites, recommends waiting a few days after potential COVID-19 exposure to be tested, as the disease will not be immediately detectable.

If a student has mild symptoms, they are recommended to schedule a telephone appointment with a UHS clinician online, but if a student is significantly ill, they are recommended to come to the COVID-19 tent outside of the Tang Center or go to the nearest emergency room.

City of Berkeley test site

The city of Berkeley offers free testing, regardless of insurance status, for anyone two years or older who lives or works in Berkeley. The testing site is in West Berkeley, and you can make a testing appointment here.

Appointment times for testing vary, but you can also be screened by a Berkeley public health nurse by calling 510-981-5380 Monday through Friday, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. 

State of California test site

Whether or not you have symptoms, you can be tested at the state of California’s South Berkeley testing site in San Pablo Park for free. Testing is by appointment only, and you can schedule your appointment online or by calling 888-634-1123.

Pharmacies

For those 18 or older, CVS Pharmacy offers free drive-thru testing, but you must have some form of insurance. CVS notes that due to limited supplies and guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the pharmacy cannot test each person who may seek a test. You can see if you qualify to be tested on the CVS website

The nearest CVS participating in COVID-19 testing is on Bancroft Ave. in Oakland.

LifeLong Medical Care

LifeLong Medical Care is an Alameda County community testing site. LifeLong is providing free testing for its members, as well as anyone working or residing in Berkeley. The facility is open on weekdays from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., but testing is by appointment. 

Non-LifeLong members should call 510-981-5380 to discuss scheduling an appointment. You do not need proof of medical insurance nor a doctor’s note to be tested.

If these sites are unable to serve you, there are a number of free COVID-19 community testing sites in Oakland, which include the Allen Temple Baptist Church, La Clínica de La Raza, Native American Health Center, Roots Community Health Center and West Oakland Health Center. More information regarding these sites, hours and information on scheduling appointments can be found here under the Oakland tab.

Contact Surina Khurana at [email protected]. Follow her on Twitter at @surina_k.