Alarmed by the state surge in the COVID-19 infections, members of local medical and nonprofit organizations vehemently petitioned the Alameda County Board of Supervisors to delay reopening places of commerce, leisure and worship.
Appearing to heed that advice, the Alameda County Health Care Services Agency announced in June 29 that “given recent increases in COVID-19 case and hospitalization rates in our county and region, we are temporarily pausing our reopening plans.”
Encouraged by the county’s delay, Dr. Geoffrey Watson, of the James A. Watson Medical Center is preparing for new cases and hospitalizations he is seeing in the Black and Brown community.
Returning to his 1992 roots when his “Men’s Mobile Van” traveled to churches, recovery centers, gyms and midnight basketball events to screen folks for prostate cancer, diabetes, hepatitis, HIV/AIDS, and hypertension, Watson will use those same mobilization tactics to combat COVID-19.
“We reignited our mobile testing last month at Bishop Jerry Maclin’s Glad Tidings church in Hayward, and currently Pastor Brondon Rheems of the Center of Hope Community Church is writing a grant to pay for testing for all of his parishioners, Watson said.
“If funded, we will test his parishioners going to service. Those without a temperature will get a green band and be allowed to enter. Those that test ‘red’ will be sent home, and we will initiate contact tracing protocol.
“We have connected with Foundation laboratory and Quest laboratories for a new FDA test that produces results in five minutes. This test gives COVID-19 antibody rates that inform us of the stage of infection, and when clients possibly contracted the virus, which will allow more efficient contract tracing.”
Watson is seeking city and corporate funding for vans and the purchase of testing kits.
“For now, we’re reaching out to churches and setting up testing sites for parishioners, but if we are going to comprehensively respond to this pandemic, we have to go to more people in the community,” he said.
Funding will allow two teams of nurses to go into nursing homes, board-and-care homes, and test developmentally delayed people housed in close quarters. They can also go to homeless encampments and recovery centers.
Foundation Laboratories has given test-kits that have two swabs, where most testing kits only have one.
“The two swabs allow us to test for other viruses beyond SARS-COV-2 to inform people whether it’s the flu or COVID-19,” Watson said. “We would do pop-up testing with lab technicians we’ve partnered with.”
The James A. Watson Wellness Center has previously partnered with the Black Nurses Association, UCSF and pre-med students. “Our test-kits are the best out there,” Watson said. “Unfortunately, the tests are expensive, around $100 per kit, that’s why we’re seeking corporate support as these tests are not covered by insurance.”
Oakland Frontline Healers has petitioned the City Council to fund Watson’s work as well as, ROOTS Medical Clinics’ services and outreach and OFH’s 26 nonprofits distributing PPE, food and other services.
“Funds to do mobile testing in the community-at-large and accurate dissemination of information is critical right now,” Watson said. “We’re planning to publish preventative wellness weekly status reports in the Post Newspaper. This information will list the racial makeup of infection; where numbers are up or down; what COVID stage communities are in and allow our teams to safely go into communities with all the supplies, equipment, and staff needed for patients that cannot come to the clinic.”
For testing information call 510-444-9460, ex. 365.