Trying something different
San Mateo County is partnering with Puente in Pescadero to try out a new COVID0-19 testing protocol this later this week. The tests are by invite only. The organization has been working hard to meet locals' needs in the crisis. Photo courtesy Puente

San Mateo County is partnering with Puente de la Costa Sur to administer 100 COVID-19 tests in Pescadero to invited residents only this Friday and Saturday as part of a pilot walk-up testing program.

The pilot program, County Chief Communications Officer Michelle Durand said, is the first time the county, rather than private providers, will attempt to conduct its own testing. Durand said the Pescadero site will serve as a trial of the program to see if future expansion is possible. She and County Manager Mike Callagy said this weekend’s testing is also an opportunity to try out a paper walk-up registration format, as opposed to the current online by-appointment system many private providers are using.

The effort comes as the county announced this week that the state has denied it additional testing capacity and sites beyond the three currently operating in San Mateo, Daly City and East Palo Alto. Durand said while the county was not approved for a permanent testing site on the Coastside, it is still advocating for expanded capacity and a temporary or rotating site in the area is not out of the question.

Puente’s role in this weekend’s Pescadero program is to first coordinate outreach and sign up community members for testing and then to be at the site to help with translation. Puente Director Rita Mancera said she is in the process of reaching out to local businesses to fill Friday’s 40 testing spots with essential employees and farmworkers and Saturday’s 60 slots to residents who live in high-density housing.

According to Durand, the operation is intended to be small and limited. The county isn’t advertising the testing widely nor publicizing the location of the site to avoid turning away uninvited residents. She said members of the public who were not invited by Puente to be involved in the program will not be tested.

Durand said the county chose Pescadero because of its small population and the county’s strong relationship with Puente.

“Puente has always been a great partner and is best suited to help identify individuals to be tested,” Durand wrote in an email to the Review.

Mancera said she is pleased that the county has chosen Pescadero for its pilot program and are paying attention to the gaps in the current state testing process, like requiring online signup with an email address, which many residents don’t have access to. Mancera said she hopes the county program addresses the inequities she sees.

“I’m excited that (the county is) covering this region,” Mancera said.” They have heard the current testing won’t work for the community at large.”

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