As talks around reopening the state continue, the push to expand testing has inspired one Burlingame-based company to reconfigure its operations.
Color, a Burlingame-based company with the goal to make widescale health programs accessible and cost efficient, has broadened their programs to include COVID-19 testing and has partnered with San Francisco to process nearly 1,500 tests per day.
“Our intention was to be the first metropolitan city to do widespread testing. In that regard we’ve been very on track,” said Caroline Savello, chief commercial officer at Color.
Initially, testing for the virus was reserved for frontline workers mainly in the medical field. San Francisco has continued to broaden criteria to include nearly all residents, opening two testing stations to those who have experienced at least one symptom such as fever, cough, sore throat or have been in contact with someone with confirmed COVID-19.
Most recently, the city moved to include all essential workers regardless of whether they show symptoms or believe they may have been exposed. San Mateo County is on track to expand testing in a similar fashion, and its services are being offered through Project Baseline, an initiative focused on collecting clinical research data. County residents are also encouraged to contact their private care provider if experiencing symptoms.
“What happened at these sites, I think, is there was a mindset in constraint in testing that affects people’s behavior and decision making in terms of testing. Once we made testing a lot more abundant in San Francisco, people were rapidly taking the opportunity. The perception I think is that there’s a capacity shortage and it’s not true,” said Savello.
Managing a crisis like the COVID-19 pandemic has routinely been referred to as unprecedented but Savello said widespread rapid testing capabilities have always been a hurdle. It was this area that Savello said she and her team were most prepared.
“We noticed all the same issues and challenges we’ve seen in the clinical testing work. There’s a bottleneck and there are barriers distorting access across the country. That’s why we mobilized and built a lab in Burlingame where our headquarters are,” she said.
Testing efforts have experienced a substantial jump but concerns remain strong as pressures continue mounting for various governing bodies to loosen sheltering restrictions. Without a cure for the highly infectious disease, fast and consistent testing will be needed for community members making a return to work.
“What we are seeing now is unfortunately a fact of life for the foreseeable future. We’re about to reopen and there’s not much that has been changed in the world,” said Savello. “There’s still no cure or vaccine and the big delta is there’s still a need for highly flexible testing. We need to trace and isolate in a noninvasive way. That’s a fact of life over the next year.”