Dr. Beatrice Tetteh usually spends Wednesday afternoons administering free COVID-19 tests at her pediatric practice near Sacramento’s Pocket neighborhood.
But this week, she spent it telling patients how to reschedule.
“I quickly sent an email to anyone registered for this Wednesday plus the 210 people we had on our wait list,” she said.
Tetteh’s office is one of six community-based testing sites that the county opened in June to meet the need for accessible testing in underserved neighborhoods. But on Monday she got a call from the Sacramento County Department of Public Health informing her that all but one of those sites would have to shut down temporarily, citing a break in the supply chain.
On Wednesday, the county announced all of the closed sites could reopen under management of the National Guard beginning July 13 — except Tetteh’s. The county says this is due to Tetteh Pediatric Health’s proximity to the South Sacramento Christian Center, another one of the community-based testing sites.
She’s worried the closure of her site will exacerbate an already dire need for testing in underserved neighborhoods. She was testing 100 people a week, including many residents from the Asian/Pacific Islander community.
“Up until the community testing sites were open, the only testing really available in the area was the drive-up testing at Cal Expo … not everyone has a car,” she said. “Many of the health systems are only performing testing if people are having symptoms.”
Both positivity rates and hospitalization rates are on the rise in Sacramento County and statewide. Community leaders say it’s a huge concern, especially in diverse neighborhoods.
Health experts say people of color are at higher risk of contracting the virus because they’re more likely to be doing essential work that doesn’t allow them to quarantine. They may also be vulnerable to complications or death from the disease because of higher rates of pre-existing health conditions.
Bobby Roy is a South Sacramento resident and a founder of the API Regional Network. He said in the Asian/Pacific Islander community it’s common to have large families where at least one household member is an essential worker.
“We are a communal cultural system, we bring that with us from the homeland,” said Roy, who is Filipino. “We may have three or four generations living in one household so we can take care of one another, and in these situations unfortunately it means we also put one another at risk."
He and other API organizations helped decide where the community-based testing site for their community should be. He said Tetteh’s office is ideal because it’s near the Greenhaven/Pocket area, where the Census Bureau lists more than one quarter of residents as Asian, and because it’s close to a bus stop.
He said he’s worried about where people will go now, especially in the often-overlooked Pacific Islander community. His organization made a point of informing them about the clinic.
“They need this testing site,” he said. “And they’re not as likely to go to some of the other ones, number one because of geographic location, but number two because of the community relationships we have with these groups, just that built-in trust.”
In Del Paso Heights, Danielle Lawrence said their testing site at Mutual Assistance Network had become an essential service, and slots were full every week. News of the temporary closure came as a surprise.
“It was definitely a disappointment, a heavy blow,” she said. “If we didn’t have the testing available it could be ‘out of sight, out of mind’. The COVID positives are on the rise, it could be bad news for our neighborhoods.”
She’s grateful the county has found a way to reopen her site next week. The National Guard sites will function much in the same way as the county-run sites, except only people age 18 and older will be eligible for a test.
Lawrence says her organization did a lot of work to get the word out about free testing and to educate people about why they should find out their status.
“As people were getting excited about wanting to be tested and then the testing wasn’t available, maybe the excitement has waned,” she said. “It’s a scary-looking test. We have to work hard to dispel myths and make sure people have the information.”
Tetteh in the Pocket said most of the calls she received in recent weeks were from people who believed they may have contracted COVID-19, including a parent whose child had a known exposure at day care and someone who had already tested positive and wanted to get their family members screened.
“I’m just seeing more and more now where people are having these common interactions where there’s a chance they’ve been exposed, and that’s not what I was hearing a few weeks ago,” she said. “We really need to be vigilant … Because for a virus that can be passed from person to person and you don’t have symptoms, it can easily go to everyone and their cousin, literally.”
The following testing sites will reopen next week to accommodate clients whose appointments were cancelled:
- Tuesday, July 14: Natomas Unified School District
- Wednesday, July 15: Robertson Community Center
- Thursday, July 16: La Familia’s Maple Neighborhood Center
- Friday, June 17: South Sacramento Christian Center (This site will also serve clients from Tetteh Pediatric Health
CapRadio provides a trusted source of news because of you. As a nonprofit organization, donations from people like you sustain the journalism that allows us to discover stories that are important to our audience. If you believe in what we do and support our mission, please donate today.