A Bay Area clinic network plans to set up the first mobile COVID-19 testing site in Marin this month to perform rapid tests with same-day results.
Carbon Health is set to open a mobile testing site at the Novato Fair Shopping Center at Diablo Avenue and Redwood Boulevard in Novato from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. April 29.
“Our testing is more broadly available to not only people with symptoms, but also to people who are at-risk of exposure such as essential workers,” Carbon Health spokeswoman Carly Sylvester wrote in an email. “Those with COVID-19 symptoms or believe they are at-risk for exposure will need to go to carbonhealth.com and schedule an appointment to have a Carbon Health provider order a test. Scheduling is essential to avoid overcrowding and maintain safety protocols on-site.”
The Novato pop-up clinic is one of several destinations Carbon Health is stopping at this month, beginning with the Stonestown Galleria in San Francisco, open through Monday.
Carbon Health will be using Abbott’s rapid COVID-19 tests. Results being provided to patients through the Carbon Health app on the same day, Sylvester said. Patients will not be able to wait onsite for results due to health safety concerns.
How many tests will be available is unclear. Sylvester did not respond to inquiries about the number of tests. The tests are covered under most insurance plans, but if not, or if a patient is uninsured, the test fee is $65, Sylvester wrote.
Marin County Public Health Officer Matt Willis said the county recognizes the need to increase COVID-19 testing capacity statewide as well as in the county. The challenge has been being able to obtain the supplies needed to perform the tests.
“When an opportunity for this comes for more widespread testing, we recognize that that will help us get a better sense of the incidents of COVID-19,” Willis said.
That said, should Carbon Health determine a patient has tested positive for COVID-19, he said the public health department needs to know so that it can begin contact tracing. Some testing sites may not have the electronic laboratory reporting infrastructure needed to do this, Willis said.
Testing individuals who do not show symptoms of COVID-19 also presents challenges, Willis said. There is a high false negative rate for COVID-19 tests — about 20% — in which patients test negative for the virus, but actually are infected, Willis said.
“That can be even higher if someone isn’t having symptoms,” Willis said. “If you’re going to get tested without symptoms, all that does is it tells you is your status at that point. It doesn’t tell you your status a week from now.”
Given the limited testing capacity, “the widespread testing of people who are not having symptoms isn’t a luxury we can’t afford at this point,” Willis said.
More information about Carbon Health’s test clinic can be found at carbonhealth.com/mobile-clinic.