Nurses from Mee Memorial Hospital conduct Covid-19 nasal swab sample collecting at the July 9 pop-up testing site in King City. (Photos by Sean Roney)

KING CITY — More than 120 community members were tested for free last Thursday at the first Covid-19 pop-up testing site in King City, hosted by Natividad Medical Center and Mee Memorial Hospital.

The July 9 testing event was set to begin at 10 a.m. and run through 3 p.m., and was advertised as being limited to the first 100 patients. However, cars were lined up around Golf Course Drive much earlier in the morning, prompting medical staff to begin the testing at 9:30 a.m. and declare they had reached capacity mere minutes after 10 a.m., demonstrating the need for such testing throughout South Monterey County.

In addition, patients were told that they might see a delay of seven or more days before getting the results of their test.

“Here, it’s just show up and be first in line,” said Chris Lopez, county supervisor for District 3, which includes South Monterey County. “This lower barrier to this testing is what makes a big sector of our population here in South County comfortable to come out and test.”

The local rush to test coincides with national efforts, which has resulted in a delay in results for patients.

“We were seeing a two- to three-day turnaround time,” said Andrea Rosenberg, assistant administrator at Natividad, about the original pop-up sites they ran five weeks ago. “But with the rest of the country being significantly impacted with additional testing happening, we’re seeing turnaround time anywhere from seven to 10 days.”

The regular testing site at Greenfield is in operation, scheduling appointments by phone and internet, but numerous people have posted online about the earliest scheduling dates for tests being nearly a week out.

“To register to test, you need to have access to technology and the wait on the phone line is too long,” Lopez said. “So when you get on the website, you have to first register as an individual, then wait for a code, then input in that code, then book your time and get your confirmation.”

The pop-up site in King City was a one-day event, but required no appointment process. Both offerings make it possible to get more people tested overall.

“If we don’t know if we’re positive or not, it’s hard to reduce the spread of this virus, and we’ve seen the impacts on our economy and our community from not knowing,” Lopez said.

King City was chosen as a site for pop-up testing after a recent one in Chualar due to what health officials have noted as low testing zones, where only a small percentage of the population has been tested for Covid-19.

“We identify different needs in the community, and one of the areas we thought has been for the most part underserved has been King City,” Rosenberg said.

She explained that Natividad worked with Supervisor Lopez and Mee Memorial to bring a pop-up site to King City as a result.

Rather than being held in a hospital or clinic parking lot, the space between King City Park and King City Golf Course was utilized because of the long U-shaped road consisting of South San Lorenzo Avenue, South Golf Drive and South Vanderhurst Avenue. That allowed for cars to back up while they waited to be tested.

“One of the key tricks to making this successful is making sure you have good traffic flow,” Rosenberg said. “This is our fifth week doing this and we’ve improved our processes every week.”

Cars at the front of the line split into two lanes for two different testing spots conducted by medical staff. One had a nurse from Natividad, while the other had two nurses from Mee Memorial. All of them wore protective suits for their protection.

“This seems to work the best, having two lanes of traffic and two different staff members working the lanes and being able to do the swabbing,” Rosenberg said.

Behind the scenes, multiple staffers managed the logistics of paperwork, sample labeling and computer management. A small canopy area with a portable generator to power computers was set up for the technicians.

At another canopy, staff rapidly cleaned stacks of clipboards that came their way after being used by patients. No insurance information was collected, nor was an ID card requested. However, each patient filled out demographic information for the county’s records, as well as information needed for contact tracing in the event they tested positive.

Patients were registered into the system but were not billed, Rosenberg explained.

After dealing with the paperwork, patients waited until their turn at the front of the line, where nurses then swabbed the inside of their noses to collect test samples. Then, the wait for test results was the next step.

Future pop-up testing sites are determined by Natividad to make up for low testing areas throughout the county, with South Monterey County being one of those areas despite agricultural workers continuing to be a large percentage of infection cases for Covid-19.

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Sean Roney is a freelance reporter for King City Rustler and Salinas Valley Tribune, a unified publication of Greenfield News, Soledad Bee and Gonzales Tribune. He covers general news for the Salinas Valley communities in South Monterey County.


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