Category Archives: Testing

Solano County Participants Sought For Stanford Coronavirus Study

“Our main objective is to learn where and how the virus is spreading…and which communities are the most vulnerable.”

Patch, By Maggie Fusek, Dec 9, 2020

Participants from Solano County and across the Bay Area are now sought for the Stanford School of Medicine's CATCH Study.

SOLANO COUNTY, CA — Stanford researchers seek the help of Solano County residents to estimate the true prevalence of the coronavirus across the San Francisco Bay Area’s 8.5 million population.

Another goal of the Community Alliance to Test Coronavirus at Home Study — CATCH— launched by the Stanford University School of Medicine is ultimately to aid in the effort to reopen schools, workplaces and communities, according to a news release.

Participants from Solano County and across the Bay Area are now sought for the CATCH Study.

“We encourage as many Bay Area residents as possible to sign-up for the CATCH Study to help increase our knowledge of a virus that has had significant impacts on our communities,” said Dr. Yvonne Maldonado, one of three Stanford researchers leading the study.

“Our main objective is to learn where and how the virus is spreading —whether people are displaying symptoms or not —and which communities are most vulnerable,” Maldonado said. “These insights will help our scientists and local public officials gain a deeper understanding of the distribution of COVID-19 throughout the greater San Francisco Bay Area so that they can stop its spread.”

Maldonado, professor of pediatric infectious diseases and of health research and policy, is leading the study alongside Stanford Medicine researchers Dr. Lorene Nelson, associate professor of health research and policy, and Dr. Stephen Quake, professor of bioengineering and of applied physics and co-president of the Chan Zuckerberg Biohub.

With the effects of COVID-19 disproportionately affecting minority and vulnerable communities throughout the country, and specifically in the Bay Area, one of the key intentions of the study is to address inequities in testing by researching underserved populations.

The study is enabled by the Vera Cloud Testing Platform including its novel Vera Home Test Kit, a gentle nasal swab self-collection kit.

San Francisco Bay Area residents 18 and older are welcome to enroll. Participants are sought in the counties of Alameda, Contra Costa, Marin, Monterey, Napa, San Benito, Santa Clara, Santa Cruz, San Mateo, Solano and Sonoma, and in the county and city of San Francisco.

Participation in the CATCH study is free and does not require health insurance.

Every participant joins online, reports their symptoms and exposures to COVID-19 daily, and may also be offered a home test kit at no cost upon reporting.

If accepted, within 24 hours a home test kit will be delivered by express courier to their home, where they can self-collect a sample, which is then delivered to the Stanford Health Care laboratory and tested for SARS-CoV-2 infection.

All tested participants are informed of their results privately and securely online via their personal password-protected account within the CATCH website.

The researchers intend to offer home test kits each day to a portion of all CATCH participants who reported the previous day, carefully selecting participants both with and without symptoms, in order to best represent the Bay Area’s diverse population.

The Vera Cloud Testing Platform and Home Test Kits were created by Stanford in collaboration with several other institutions, including the Chan Zuckerberg Biohub and Microsoft, and aim to increase testing capacity for COVID-19 at local, state and national levels.

Stanford also intends to make the platform available under non-commercial terms to academic institutions, public health departments, laboratory providers and other organizations interested in offering expansive at-home testing.

The study is funded by the Chan Zuckerberg Biohub, an independent, nonprofit medical research center that brings together physicians, scientists and engineers from Stanford University, the University of California, San Francisco and the University of California, Berkeley to drive discovery and encourage collaborative science.

Residents interested in learning more about the CATCH Study and how they can participate can visit or call 833-971-2468.

First coronavirus case reported in Solano County jails – July 22, 2020

[For background, see Coronavirus: What is Going On in Solano County Jails?]

Solano County Jail Reports First COVID-19 Case – Questions Persist About Accuracy of Counts – Weekly Highlights – Breaking Down COVID-19 in CA Jails

Davis Vanguard, by Nikki Suzani, July 26, 2020

Highlights (July 20th – 25th)

  • Solano County Jail reported its first positive case of COVID-19 on Wednesday, July 22. The Solano County JDF has still not reported any positive cases.
  • 220 total tests were administered in the jail as of July 22 — an increase of about 34% from last Friday. Tests administered on Thursday and Friday have not yet been reported.
  • 143 total incarcerated persons have been booked into the jail, 53 less than last week. Of those 143 persons, 62 were booked after the first positive test was reported.

According to Solano Sheriff’s Office Public Information Officer, Le’Ron Cummings, the jail is following statewide precautions to prevent the spread and transmission of COVID-19.

“We have consulted with the County Public Health Officer, Risk Management, and are following their and any applicable CDC and CDPH guidelines for correctional facilities,” he wrote in an email to the Davis Vanguard.

Some of these actions, as listed on the CDC website, include – posting signs and communicating information verbally encouraging all persons in the facility to protect themselves against the virus, ensuring that there are sufficient medical supplies and testing on hand, providing a constant no-cost supply of soap, and limiting transfers of incarcerated/detained persons.

There are no guidelines that require incarcerated persons or staff to wear a mask, nor is it clear if the Solano County Jail has provided enough masks for all individuals in the jail.

Further, the jail is actively attempting to improve its transparency by establishing a database to help track the numbers better.

“Currently, my office is putting together a package of data specially for the Davis Vanguard’s requests”, Cummings wrote in an email to the Davis Vanguard. “What will take place is, every Monday, I will be provided [with] our most recent data on tests taken and positive cases among our inmates within all of our facilities. In turn, I will provide them to [the Vanguard] as soon as possible. This way, [the Vanguard] will have the most accurate and up-to-date numbers.”

This is a much-needed shift from the previous system where only a select few had access to the data about tests and positive cases. The database will be set up on Monday, July 27 after which the information about testing should be easily available to those interested.

The Solano County JDF has not announced any similar systems.

Source: Deputy Le’Ron Cummings, Public Information Officer – Solano County Sheriff’s Office and Shai Davis, Public Information Officer – Solano County Health Department.[/su_column][/su_row]

Coronavirus – what is going on in Solano jails?

Questions Arise as Solano County Jails Continually Report 0 Cases – Weekly Highlights – Breaking Down COVID-19 in CA Jails

Davis Vanguard, by Nikki Suzani, July 19, 2020

Highlights (July 11th – July 18th)

  • The total number of confirmed cases is still 0 in both Solano County Jail and Solano County Juvenile Detention Facility (JDF), while there are 2,372 confirmed cases and 31 deaths in Solano County itself.
  • The number of tests administered in the jail increased significantly this week — 166 tested as of July 17th in comparison to 95 as of July 11th, reflecting an increase of 175% over 7-days. Testing in the jail started on June 2nd and on June 14th in JDF.
  • 196 individuals have been booked into the jail since July 11th and 0 have been booked into JDF.

Both facilities have been taking steps to ensure adequate testing is in place.

  • Individuals are now able to request testing in both facilities, regardless of whether they are symptomatic.
  • All new intakes in JDF are tested before entering the center. Since testing became available, everyone who was symptomatic was tested.

It is unclear what precautions the facilities have taken to limit the spread of infections.

  • Both facilities halted in-person visitors on March 13th.
  • A request sent on July 16th about the conditions in the jail to Le’Ron Cummings, Solano Sheriff’s Office Public Information Officer, is still being processed.
  • A series of calls to JDF’s Medical Department and the Probation Office on July 15th inquiring about precautions taken have not been responded to.
  • It is unclear why, out of approximately 300 people in the jail and 200 people in JDF, not all are being tested — especially as it appears that there are sufficient tests available for the population.

According to Solano Sheriff’s Office Public Information Officer Le’Ron Cummings, the current system to track the number of tests and cases in the jail is available to only a select few. However, recent communication from the State suggests that the County will set up an online system for daily tracking. It is not yet clear, according to Cummings, whether that system will be available to the public.

The lack of transparency even towards officials in the Sheriff’s Office, is concerning, especially as the disease continues to ravage Solano County. The minimal number of tests administered in addition to the lack of public information, suggest that the facilities may have more cases than the confirmed count.

Source: Deputy Le’Ron Cummings, Public Information Officer – Solano County Sheriff’s Office and Shai Davis, Public Information Officer – Solano County Health Department.

California to no longer fund new testing sites, may close underutilized test sites

[Significant quote: “A Newsom administration official confirmed that the state wants to see counties fill at least 80% of testing slots at each location. And if testing drops below 50% for a few days or longer, counties are warned, the sites could be transferred elsewhere.”]

As coronavirus cases surge, California pauses multimillion-dollar testing expansion

Los Angeles Times, by Angela Hart, Rachel Bluth, July 1, 2020
Carson Mayor Albert Robles does self-testing outside the Congresswoman Juanita Millender-McDonald Community Center.
Carson Mayor Albert Robles self-tests for COVID-19 at a new drive-up site outside the Congresswoman Juanita Millender-McDonald Community Center. (Genaro Molina / Los Angeles Times)

SACRAMENTO —  In April, Gov. Gavin Newsom launched a multimillion-dollar state initiative to bring COVID-19 testing to the people and places with the least access: rural towns and disadvantaged inner-city neighborhoods.

California is now halting its expansion, citing costs, even as the state is getting walloped by record-setting spikes in new infections and double-digit increases in hospitalizations.

The state will no longer fund new testing sites, despite pleas from counties for additional assistance — and it has closed some locations and moved them elsewhere. It also has threatened to pull testing out of underutilized sites, according to nearly two dozen interviews with county public health officials.

While it’s early in the process, some winners and losers have emerged: El Dorado County, east of Sacramento, lost its testing site in the town of Shingle Springs in June because it couldn’t fill enough appointment slots, while Fresno County gained a site that had been pulled from elsewhere, said its health officer, Dr. Rais Vohra.

Yet San Mateo County has asked state officials three times for a second state-funded venue to address testing gaps in Black and farmworker neighborhoods but has been “told no, repeatedly,” said Justin Mates, deputy county manager. So the county transformed its sole state site into a roving testing unit.

“Equity is certainly a concern for us,” Mates said. “We really need help with testing access if we’re going to reach our Latino residents and places like East Palo Alto,” a diverse city whose population is mainly Latino, African American and Asian/Pacific Islander.

California has committed up to $132 million in contracts with two private COVID-19 testing companies, Verily Life Sciences and OptumServe, to offer free coronavirus tests at more than 100 sites that the Newsom administration has identified as “testing deserts.” The expansion has dramatically increased the state’s overall testing numbers, which swelled from 16,000 tests per day in April to 105,000 on Monday.

Testing is also available at county-funded locations, private pharmacies, hospitals and community clinics.

State Health and Human Services Secretary Mark Ghaly confirmed that California is pulling sites out of counties that aren’t generating high enough numbers and cutting off funding for new locations.

“With every asset and resource — especially when it’s scarce — you want it to go to places where it’s most needed,” Ghaly said. “It wouldn’t be prudent or wise to maintain spending in a place where resources aren’t being used.”

Newsom has voiced concern about the testing price tag, given “unprecedented” budget shortfalls. “There is a big cost associated with testing,” he said in late June.

A Newsom administration official confirmed that the state wants to see counties fill at least 80% of testing slots at each location. And if testing drops below 50% for a few days or longer, counties are warned, the sites could be transferred elsewhere.

Counties argue that there’s a public health benefit to keeping underperforming locations open — simply to ensure that testing is available to rural and disenfranchised communities. Across the state, counties are fighting to save state-funded sites even as they are being overwhelmed by increased numbers of COVID-19 cases, linked largely to social gatherings.

“It’s how we are able to quickly identify where the virus is and if there are hot spots,” said Dr. Olivia Kasirye, health officer for Sacramento County, where holiday celebrations and booze-fueled gatherings among family and friends are sending infection rates soaring.

Contra Costa County saw its testing numbers drop in June and was at risk of losing a state-funded site until it proved it could keep appointments near 80% of capacity, said its health officer, Dr. Chris Farnitano.

Riverside County was warned June 16 that a state-funded site north of Temecula would be “moved to another county” if it didn’t get its testing above 50%, according to an email from the state’s testing task force. The state told Mendocino County it could lose its state-funded site, the only free testing available within a two-hour drive for some rural residents, if it didn’t push numbers up.

Alameda County grew so frustrated with state requirements that it undertook a testing expansion of its own.

“We realized we couldn’t depend on the state, especially to reach our vulnerable communities,” said Dr. Jocelyn Freeman-Garrick, an emergency room physician at Highland Hospital in Oakland, who is leading the county’s testing task force.

El Dorado County, which lost its site, so far has maintained a relatively low count of COVID-19 cases. It can’t afford to replace the site but will “make do,” said county spokesperson Carla Hass.

Ghaly said the state is working with counties in danger of losing sites to give them a chance to fill testing slots. State officials declined to say how many counties have lost sites, but as new infections have soared, testing numbers are starting to pick back up. The list of counties at risk of losing a site has dwindled from around a dozen in early June to a few last week.

Public health experts say focusing so intently on testing numbers, and not on adequate testing in Black and Latino neighborhoods, risks abandoning communities that already face immense barriers to healthcare.

“If you ignore these communities, then we’ll keep seeing the kinds of surges that we’re seeing now,” said Dr. Tony Iton, formerly the top health official for Alameda County and now a senior vice president of the California Endowment, which is working with counties to expand testing in underserved neighborhoods.

Entrenched socioeconomic barriers also make it difficult to get, and keep, testing numbers up. For instance, people who want to be tested at state sites often need Internet access and an email address. Most sites are drive-through, requiring access to a vehicle.

Many low-income people can’t meet those requirements, while undocumented immigrants fear that providing personal information to obtain a test could expose them to immigration officials, said Dr. Marty Fenstersheib, a former health officer of Santa Clara County who is leading its testing program.

“We can have all the tests we want, but if people are afraid to come and get tested, it’s not going to be of any benefit,” he said.

State contracts that fund the testing sites were extended in June but are set to expire Aug. 31, and administration officials have not told counties whether the state will continue funding them after that, said Mimi Hall, president of the County Health Executives Assn. of California and director of public health for Santa Cruz County.

Counties can’t afford to keep the sites running, said Hall, who is on the state’s testing task force.

“It’s hard to plan when we don’t know how long we’ll be able to keep them,” Hall said.

This story was produced by KHN (Kaiser Health News), which publishes California Healthline, an editorially independent service of the California Health Care Foundation. KHN is not affiliated with Kaiser Permanente.