The Hayward Fire Department has set up a free public COVID-19 testing site at Tennyson Park, in front of Fire Station 7. “It’s for anybody, regardless of residency. You don’t have to live in the city of Hayward, you don’t have to be a citizen,” Capt. Don Nichelson Public Information Officer for the Hayward Fire Department told reporters. “We’ll take anybody from anywhere”.
Starting Monday, March 23rd, 2020, the testing site will be open for three weeks from 9 am to 6 pm. Each day they will be allotted 370 tests plus any surplus from the previous days. The line of cars on Huntwood Avenue extended well in excess of ⅓ of a mile at the time the Pioneer was at the test site.
On day one, 207 tests were administered to all individuals with fevers in excess of 100.4 degrees. On day two, with the surplus left over from Monday, criteria for testing expanded to include any fever plus. “We weren’t getting the maximum number of people tested that we could have, which we set at 370. We kind of loosened the restrictions a little bit. If you have a fever, you’re gonna get tested. Other criteria are if you have traveled outside of the country to Europe or Asia if you have chronic [health] problems if you are over 65, those kinds of criteria.” When asked if they were on a learning curve, the captain commented, “We’re used to wildfires and campaign fires. We are paid to adapt [when faced with new situations].”
Captain Nichelson told reporters that if an individual tests positive for the novel Coronavirus, they will be notified within 6-24 hours. However, the department does not have the number of tests that were positive. The test itself is rather intrusive, utilizing nasal and swabs reaching to the back of the nasal cavity, followed by an oral swab of the back of the throat, often triggering a gag reflex.
The testing is being done with support from the Fremont Fire Department, Hayward, Fremont, and Berkley Police Departments, and is being made possible by Menlo Park Biotech firm Avellino Labs.
Station 7 also has a smaller operation on the side for First Responders to get tested. First Responders who would like to be tested are told to call the Hayward Covid-19 hotline at (510) 583-4949, where an on-site chief will give them directions.
If the public has face masks or gloves they would like to donate, they are urged to contact local clinics and hospitals.
The results of Monday’s tests have been released to the public, showing that fifty-four of the 207 tests administered had positive results. The city of Hayward released a statement saying “The City of Hayward intends to publicly report positive result (sic) approximately 48 hours after each day’s testing. It is disclosing the information to help residents understand the prevalence of coronavirus infection and reiterate the importance of compliance with shelter-in-place orders and other social distancing and hygiene precautions.”
In addition, the requirements for testing have been expanded with the city stating, quote:
“Symptoms or conditions qualifying members of the general public for testing are fever above 100 degrees or any of the following:
● Shortness of breath or other respiratory symptoms;
● Recent travel to Europe or Asia;
● Recent exposure to confirmed or suspected coronavirus;
● Other chronic diseases or conditions, such as blood disorders, kidney or liver disease, diabetes, heart, lung or neurological disease, and compromised immune system;
● Over the age of 65;
● Currently or recently pregnant; or
In order to ease the traffic congestion in the vicinity of Station 7 and Tennyson Park, the Hayward Fire Department has partnered with California State University East Bay to use the Hayward campus’ unused Parking Lot A for the city’s Covid-19 testing center. This decision, according to Hayward Fire Department Public Information Officer Captain Don Nichelson, was made by Fire Chief Garrett Contreras and City Manager Kelly McAdoo, and at the invitation of CSUEB.
This comes as senior and disabled citizens who cannot drive themselves are encountering increased hardships in transportation as a direct result of the Covid-19 pandemic. Not only is public transportation operating at reduced capacity, but so are alternative providers such as East Bay Paratransit, and some employees are hesitant to service symptomatic customers for fear of contracting the virus. In response, Captain Nichelson told the Pioneer, “we’ll bend over backward just to try to accommodate“ for anyone who calls their hotline and requests assistance in getting transportation to the testing site.
When asked about what steps are being taken to protect any students still living on campus, the captain pointed out that the testing site is a significant distance from student housing and is quarantined from the rest of the campus with distinct signage, and thus should not pose any threat to students’ health.
Readers can visit the Hayward Fire Department’s webpage for the testing center at https://www.hayward-ca.gov/content/coronavirus-testing-center for the latest updates.
Hayward Fire Department Covid-19 hotline: 1 (510) 583-4949