KRON4 Heroes: East Bay doctor helps make widespread COVID testing possible

by: Amy Larson | KRON

BERKELEY, Calif. (KRON) — One of the most difficult challenges for healthcare workers battling the coronavirus outbreak is bridging the divide between Bay Area residents who want to be tested for the virus, safely administering those tests, and following up with patients who are infected.

In the East Bay, one doctor realized early on that a demand for tests was going to surge before medical care providers had enough time to gather necessary supplies, organize and staff pop up tents to serve as testing sites, and find laboratories to analyze the samples.

Dr. Kim Nguyen, an associate medical director at LifeLong Medical Care, spearheaded organizing and coordinating how tests were given to patients at several sites throughout the East Bay to speed up the process, and pushed for free COVID testing to be available in under-served communities.

“We felt there was an urgent need to start the process of testing and have an infrastructure in place as we kept trying to figure out how to get more tests,” she said.

Nguyen’s leadership and foresight helped LifeLong Medical Care’s team be one of the first medical providers to set up tent sites and forge a partnership with the City of Berkeley.

“Because we were one of the early starters in developing a tent testing site and getting people tested in the East Bay, the City of Berkeley reached out to us to partner in providing more testing for the community. The reason we could do that was because UC Berkeley converted its research labs into a clinical lab for us to test people for COVID,” she said.

Today, anyone without insurance nor coronavirus symptoms can make an appointment with LifeLong Medical Care and receive a free test.

“We are trying to make sure that this is available to anyone,” Nguyen said.

As Bay Area counties begin to partially reopen, Nguyen is urging residents to continue to be tested for the virus.

“It’s super important as we reopen because we want to see the effects of reopening on any possible surge and it continues to be important until we have a way to prevent spread in a more widespread way,” she said.

Top public health experts say a second wave of infections could result from reopening too soon. How “soon” is “too soon” depends on who you ask. But continued widespread testing will help county health officials detect if a second surge begins to unfold.

Earlier this month, Dr. Jahan Fahimi told KRON4, “There’s no doubt we’re going to a see second spike. And just like with the first wave, the question is, how big will that spike be. The good news is that we have a lot of preparations that we’ve undertaken that are in place, and so we’re definitely more prepared for a potential surge.”

As part of this higher level of preparedness, Nguyen said COVID-19 testing is being expanded to congregate settings where vulnerable populations live, such as homeless shelters, rehabilitation centers, and nursing homes. There is also a bigger push to test more people who have zero symptoms.

LifeLong Medical Care has COVID-19 outdoor testing tent sites in Oakland, Berkeley, and Richmond. If you have Medi-Cal, Medicare, are uninsured, or are undocumented, you can receive a free test. Call 510-981-4199 to be screened for eligibility, registered, and scheduled for a test.

Original Article