A temporary city-coordinated mobile COVID-19 testing site will open Jan. 23 at San Pablo Park. The site will be operated by Curative and provide tests Sundays and Mondays until Feb. 14.
The site can test 300 patients per day, according to Curative spokesperson Shoshana Gould in an email. She added that she hopes the city will want to extend the site’s operation.
“We saw an incredible increase in demand for tests since the last week of December,” Gould said in the email. “This was due to people wanting to get tested before and after the winter holidays, before returning to school and, of course, because of the Omicron variant.”
Many Curative testing sites saw a 300% increase in demand beginning in late December, Gould added.
Gould noted Curative has faced difficulties in meeting the full demand for testing. The primary challenge has been understaffing due to those who operate the testing sites catching COVID-19, despite Curative’s safety measures, which include vaccination requirements, personal protective equipment and social distancing for staff.
“If sites and labs aren’t fully staffed, that changes how many patients we can test per day,” Gould said in the email. “Our site specialists and lab technicians are working tirelessly to test as many people as possible and make sure samples are resulted quickly.”
Berkeley resident and UC Berkeley alumnus Mike Estrada was unable to get tested for COVID-19 when he developed flulike symptoms in late December. He alleged the city’s testing sites were booked more than a week out and rapid tests were sold out when he checked local pharmacies.
Estrada said being unable to find a COVID-19 test was “very frustrating” and that he would like to see more information from the city regarding where and when to get tested, especially on social media. Estrada has also had difficulty finding notice from the city about the new testing site.
“The writing has been on the wall — we saw this coming like a month ago,” Estrada said. “The city needs to do a better job at providing more explicit direct information, and we need more sites open.”
The new testing site will join Curative’s fixed testing site at Berkeley Adult School, which opened in October 2020 and can test about 500 patients per day. The site offers both standard and rapid polymerase chain reaction tests, according to Gould.
Additionally, the city offers testing at the West Berkeley Service Center every weekday and at pop-up sites Downtown and at the corner of San Pablo and Heinz avenues, according to the city’s website. Appointments are required for testing at all of these sites.
“The Berkeley Adult School and the City of Berkeley have been tremendous partners since 2020,” Gould said in the email. “We are thankful for their support and are looking forward to continuing to test the greater Berkeley community this year.”
The city is also working to establish another testing site that will be easily accessible via public transportation and increase testing capacity by 500 tests per day, according to Lisa Warhuus, the city’s director of health, housing and community services.