Updated March 23, 7:30 p.m.
The Coronavirus-testing facility a Hayward fire station is now up and running.
The site is focused on first responders, healthcare workers, and members of the public who have potential coronavirus symptoms.
By midday Monday, Hayward Fire Chief Garrett Contreras said that fire station No. 7 had already screened about 500 people from across the Bay Area, and tested another 40.
Contreras hand-delivered the first batch of tests to Avellino Lab USA in Menlo Park. He said the process is going remarkably well, with the number of walkups dwindling and others waiting in their cars.
"The way I'm looking at the line right now, maybe multiple sites aren't necessary and just staffing is the most appropriate," Contraras said. He said tomorrow they would see if people are traveling from farther away to get tested.
Contreras said Fremont fire personnel were assisting efforts and he was expecting observers representing the City of Berkeley.
City of Hayward to Launch Coronavirus Testing Center at Fire Department
March 22, 8 a.m.
When Hayward Fire Chief Garrett Contreras saw that San Jose had to quarantine many of its firefighters after they were exposed to the coronavirus, he thought it could happen to his city, too.
“We started to get concerned about taking care of our people,” Contreras said. “Once I realized that there was a lack of testing for sick people in general, I realized there was a broader problem.”
In response, Contreras has rallied community members and a private company to make sure Hayward is keeping track of its coronavirus outbreak. KQED has learned the city will open a testing facility tomorrow geared towards first responders and health care workers. They will also test members of the public who are symptomatic.
“Suppression through isolation after testing, or SIT, as we call it, is an approach that has proven to be most effective in countries on the leading edge of this pandemic,” Contreras said.
The effort, which is the brainchild of the chief, was inspired by the ongoing difficulty of getting Hayward’s firefighters tested after possible exposure.
On March 15, Contreras began sending out hundreds of emails and LinkedIn messages to city leaders and labs. He also became a “student” of the virus, observing how other countries, such as South Korea and Italy, varied in their responses to the crisis.
In days, he secured $500,000 from the city of Hayward and a partnership with Avellino Lab USA, Inc., based in Menlo Park — a company specializing in gene therapy, molecular diagnostics and medicine for eye care.
The center has enough test kits for up to 370 people a day, for about a month.