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Free COVID-19 testing offered in San Rafael’s Canal neighborhood

March 18, 2021

MarinIJ article by: Richard Halstead

Residents wait for COVID-19 tests at Canal Alliance in San Rafael, Calif., in 2020. A free testing event is being organized for the last two weekends of March 2021. (Sherry LaVars/Marin Independent Journal)

Fears about a possible new wave of COVID-19, and concern that Marin’s Latino community has been a hotbed for infections has prompted health officials to offer free testing in the Canal.

“Across the country we’re seeing dropping testing rates,” said Dr. Gabriel Chamie, an associate professor of medicine at UCSF and the study’s co-principal investigator. “If we lose sight of one of our key tools, which is testing, that is a missed opportunity to keep another wave from coming.”

Omar Carrera, Canal Alliance’s executive director, said public health officials have told him they expect a fourth surge of COVID-19 infections when colleges and universities begin taking their spring break.

“We’re learning how everything operates so when the fourth wave comes we’re going to be better prepared,” Carrera said. “Right now the number of cases is low and the economy is reopening. This is the time to build an infrastructure, not when you have a wave of positive cases.”

The testing will be provided at Pickleweed Park in San Rafael this weekend and next with no appointment needed.

The testing is being made available through a partnership between Canal Alliance, a nonprofit serving the city’s predominately Latino Canal community, and the University of California, San Francisco. They received a grant from the National Institutes of Health to offer the program to study the best ways to get people to be tested.

The Latino community has been especially vulnerable to COVID-19 infection, and many Latino residents can’t afford to miss work by staying at home and share crowded apartments due to lack of income.

The free testing is available to people who aren’t displaying symptoms of COVID-19 as well as those who are. Public health officials are recommending that anyone who works with the public be tested regularly as a precautionary measure.

“This is the time for all of us to continue with regular testing,” Carrera said, “especially if you are an essential worker, especially if you are working in spaces with other people. You should get tested at least once a month.”

Participants will be tested using Abbott Laboratories’ BinaxNOW rapid antigen test. Results will be available within two hours. Contact investigators will be on site to help anyone who tests positive with services.

Read the full article on the MarinIJ website:

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