COVID Testing Site Shuttered

COVID Testing Site Shuttered

After reports of confusion and setbacks, the COVID-19 testing site in Alameda conducted by CityHealth Urgent Care has been permanently shut down.

The free testing site, located at 300 Wind River Way at The Research Park inside Marina Village, was closed on July 31, according to Alameda City Manager Eric Levitt. Levitt said he is unsure why the site closed, but said the City withdrew support for the project.

“That support was withdrawn when certain protocol concerns from Alameda County were brought to our attention,” wrote Levitt in an email.

The Alameda County Public Health Department (ACPHD) sent a letter to CityHealth CEO Sean Parkin admonishing them for improper protocols they witnessed at the former site. ACPHD listed five violations County representatives observed during visits to the testing site.

First, CityHealth staff did not follow proper infection control procedures. ACPHD said they witnessed staff not keeping proper distance from one another and not changing gloves in between testing different individuals.

Second, CityHealth did not provide a safe environment for testing participants. ACPHD reported testing individuals were not kept six feet apart and several individuals were not wearing a face mask.

Third, CityHealth failed to provide individuals with information on isolating and quarantining even after County staff delivered materials for distribution.

Fourth, CityHealth failed to report test results through the state Electronic Laboratory Reporting system to ACPHD (or the health jurisdiction of the patient’s residence) as required by law.

Lastly, CityHealth used an inadequate testing procedure to gather individual’s COVID-19 results. ACPHD said CityHealth used an antigen test instead of a molecular test.

The letter stated due to the lower sensitivity of antigen tests relative to molecular tests, “antigen tests should only be considered for use in situations where a positive result would indicate immediate, specific clinical action.” It went on to say that antigen tests should not be used for the “screening of asymptomatic individuals; screening of healthcare workers, emergency responders and other essential personnel; and testing of underserved or marginalized populations where access to testing is limited.”

Antigen tests produce more false negative results due to their low sensitivity, and false positive results when the disease prevalence is low than molecular tests, according to the Association of Public Health Laboratories. The Center of Disease Control and Prevention recommends the use of rapid antigen tests only to inform treatment decisions (i.e., prescription of antivirals), aid in ongoing outbreak investigations or to direct infection control actions.

The rapid antigen test is cheaper and gets faster results. ACPHD did not say when representatives visited the site.

The testing site originally opened on July 22. It was planned to be open 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., seven days a week until September 22. CityHealth said it would administer 500 tests a day and individuals would be given test results within 15 minutes. However, the site temporarily closed on July 23 after CityHealth said it administered more than 1,000 tests on the first day causing a backlog (“COVID-19 Testing” July 28). There was also a problem with CityHealth using individuals’ health insurance on the first day. CityHealth billed individual’s health insurance companies. Those without insurance had their bill paid for by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

The site transitioned from a walk-in testing format to an appointment-only format as of July 24, according to the CityHealth website. But appointment booking on the CityHealth website was deactivated as of July 28.

The City has not formally announced that the site has closed. To view a list of COVID-19 test sites in Alameda County, visit https://covid-19.acgov.org/testing.page.