By Mike Kinney
Local leaders are looking into ways to provide closer access to COVID-19 testing for Richmond first responders.
Contra Costa Health Services (CCHS) has been offering free expedited drive-through testing for all first responders and healthcare workers in Concord when they are unable to access testing through their own healthcare provider or occupational health services. The site was chosen due to its central location in the County and, since opening March 21, has tested 439 first responders countywide as of Thursday, according to CCHS.
The union representing Richmond police is calling for a site closer to Richmond. While Richmond police officers and firefighters have been using the Concord site, the distance is prohibitive for many West County first responders, some of whom don’t live in Contra Costa County, said Ben Therriault, president of the Richmond Police Officer’s Association (RPOA).
“Your first responders deserve an opportunity to protect those of us on the front lines so that we can continue to effectively serve the residents of Richmond,” Therriault said.
State Assemblymember Buffy Wicks says the County has been exploring additional options.
“Testing, especially for first responders, is critical,” Wicks said. “Across the board we need to increase capacity.”
One option being explored is testing first responders at three West County health centers, said Contra Costa County Supervisor John Gioia, who has been working with Therriault on the issue.
In addition to the Concord site that is exclusive to first responders, the County is currently doing testing for nearly 200,000 Contra Costa Health Plan members at the West County Health Center in San Pablo, the Martinez Health Center and Pittsburg Health Center, Gioia said.
Gioia added that Kaiser members, including first responders, can be tested at Kaiser Richmond’s drive-thru site, and that LifeLong Medical’s Jenkins Health Center in downtown Richmond also does testing.
“The County gives top priority to first responders and healthcare workers for rapid testing because we need them to get back to work to take care of our community if they are not infected,” said Will Harper, spokesperson for CCHS.