Berkeley COVID-19 testing sites respond to poor air quality conditions

San Pablo Park
Brian Bi/File
In light of the recent wildfires, COVID-19 testing at Berkeley's San Pablo Avenue site was put on hold due to the resulting poor air quality index, and it is still closed as of press time.

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With wildfires impacting Northern California, Berkeley’s coronavirus testing facilities are attempting to keep clients safe from both the threat of virus transmission and smoke in the air.

The city of Berkeley has been offering free coronavirus tests at several locations, including the Frances Albrier Community Center, the Berkeley Adult School on San Pablo Avenue and the LifeLong West Berkeley Health Center at the intersection of Sixth Street and Addison Street. Last week, testing at the San Pablo and Frances Albrier locations was put on hold due to the poor air quality index, according to city spokesperson Matthai Chakko.

At the Frances Albrier location, which reopened Monday, more air filters are being installed to keep clients safe from smoke inhalation, Chakko added.

“We’re taking precautions to both reduce smoke and also keep in clean airflow,” Chakko said.

Berkeley’s mobile testing site, which is primarily focused on increasing equity, has remained in operation throughout the wildfires.

The mobile testing site has served grocery store employees and residents at skilled nursing and long-term care facilities, and it has been working closely with Berkeley’s Latinx and Black communities, according to Chakko.

Despite the interruption to everyday life posed by the wildfires, Chakko said the city of Berkeley has remained above target for testing numbers.

While the city of Berkeley’s goal was to provide 245 tests per day, Chakko said it offered an average of 413 tests per day from Aug. 6 to Aug. 19, the most recent reporting period.

Berkeley’s San Pablo Avenue outdoor testing site is still closed as of press time.

Curative Inc., the site’s vendor, is working with the city of Berkeley to relocate its kiosk indoors “as quickly as possible,” according to Curative spokesperson Miranda Gottlieb.

The company has been offering mouth-swab testing through a pilot program, but it is in discussion with the city of Berkeley about a possible future contract, Chakko said.

“We are also exploring options to expand our footprint in Berkeley to increase testing availability on a more permanent basis,” Gottlieb added in an email.

Contact Ruby Sutton at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @rubysutton_.