County tests residents with symptoms at multiple locations


Denis Perez / The Advocate

West County Medical Center Family Physician Alan Siegel, 51, holds a biohazard bag with a test sample while he explains the an information sheet he gave to a patient who came to the West County Medical Center for a coronavirus test in San Pablo Avenue on April 27. The sample will be placed in a chilled cooler and picked up to be delivered to a testing facility.

By Denis Perez, Creative Director

The shelter-in-place order issued by California Gov. Gavin Newsom has been extended through May and one of his requirements for the state and Contra Costa County to reopen is that testing must become available to everyone.

Contra Costa Health Services (CCHS) Public Information Officer Will Harper said to curb the spread and better understand COVID-19, the CCHS is offering free coronavirus testing to any Contra Costa County residents who exhibits symptoms.

CCHS began this service on April 22 and provides both walk-up and drive-thru testing. However, residents should call the county health service’s phone line first, Harper said.

To begin the process, residents must call 1-844-421-0804 for a phone screening evaluation. The nearest testing site to Contra Costa College is at West County Medical Center, located at 13601 San Pablo Avenue.

Other available sites are the Martinez Health Center, Contra Costa Public Health Clinic Services in Concord, Pittsburg Health Center and Antioch Health Center. Another testing site will be added in San Ramon in the coming weeks, health officials said.

Phone service and testing sites are open from 8 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Monday through Friday.

Denis Perez / The Advocate
Doctor Tara Kantharaj administers a free coronavirus test to a Contra Costa County resident during a drive-thru coronavirus test at West County Medical Center in San Pablo Avenue on April 27. The sample will be placed in a chilled cooler and be picked up to be delivered to a testing facility.

The testing procedure includes a doctor rubbing the patient’s nostril and nose with a 5-inch swab. The swabs are placed in a tube to preserve the test sample. The tube is placed in a biohazard bag and put into a chilled cooler. The cooler is then picked up by a courier and delivered to a testing lab.

Test results for first responders and medical professionals are returned within 24 hours, while test results for other residents will take three to five days, Harper said.

As of April 28, at 11:30 a.m., the county had tested 12,406 people with 842 confirmed coronavirus cases in the county.

In Richmond there are 103 cases and in San Pablo there are 49 cases. The coronavirus has killed 25 people in the county and currently 27 residents are hospitalized, according to

Contra Costa County Deputy Health Officer Rophan Radhakrishna said, “Testing is an essential part of our strategy to better understand the pandemic in our county and know when, and how, to safely and slowly reopen society — but it is only a piece of the puzzle.”

The county’s first priority is to test people who are showing symptoms and are in high risk settings like health care workers, first responders, dialysis and chemotherapy patients, hospitalized people and homeless people, Radhakrishna said.

The second priority is anyone else who is showing symptoms and the third priority is anyone who isn’t showing symptoms, but is active in high risk settings.

On April 27, the U.S. Center for Disease Control (CDC) added to the list of the coronavirus symptoms. These added symptoms include headaches, chills, repeat shaking with chills, muscle pain, sore throat and a new loss of taste or smell.

Symptoms may appear two to four days after exposure to the virus.  People with these symptoms or combinations of the symptoms above may have contracted the coronavirus according to the CDC website.