You have likely asked yourself that question. More than six months into a global pandemic where fresh facts emerge and circumstances change, it’s a smart question to ask yourself as well as family members and friends.
The unequivocal answer is yes — whether you’re concerned because of your job or your living situation, or you’re afraid you’ve been exposed, or if you’re just worried about COVID-19, testing is available to you in San Mateo County.
Wait. Don’t we need to save test kits for those most at-risk, such as older adults and health care workers? That is no longer the case here in San Mateo County. Testing providers across the county have made great progress on the supply shortages seen earlier in the pandemic.
The county, through its partner Project Baseline, can now test more than 7,500 individuals every week, with testing offered six days, including Saturday. That’s more than 30,000 tests per month.
Anyone over the age of 18 who lives or works in the county can receive a no-cost test simply by finding a convenient time and location at smcgov.org/testing and registering with Project Baseline (If you do not have internet access, call the 211 service line to learn about your options). In addition, the county offers testing in partnership with cities and nonprofits at neighborhood, pop-up locations.
On behalf of the San Mateo County Board of Supervisors, I urge you to take advantage of this opportunity. In addition to county-sponsored options, you can also check with your health care provider or find other options that work for you at smcgov.org/testing.
Getting tested is one of the single greatest contributions you can make to your community.
Why is getting a test so important? For three clear and compelling reasons. First, if a test comes back positive, infected individuals can quickly seek treatment and limit their exposure to family members, friends and others. Contact tracers then work with patients to identify people who may have been exposed to the virus and alert them.
This is important: Contact tracers do not identify the patient. They only tell the contacts they may have potential exposure.
Second, testing allows public health professionals to track outbreaks, understand how the virus is infecting our residents and provide services to communities most at risk.
Lower income residents and populations of color, which have higher positivity rates, are the focus of the state’s new equity metric. This metric seeks to ensure counties direct resources to at-risk communities.
These communities have experienced the worst of the pandemic so far, because of poverty, lack of affordable housing that has led to overcrowding, and the fact that many of these residents work front-line jobs, such as food service and caregiving.
Increasing testing, along with rent relief, support for isolation and other measures, is key to helping these communities reduce exposure and spread.
Testing — and testing early — allows everyone to take the steps to protect themselves, their families and their communities.
And third, increased testing, coupled with contact tracing and widespread adoption of protective behaviors such as mask wearing, is our best hope for reopening our economy, getting our kids back in school and safely enjoying whatever it is we love — spending time with friends, dining out, Halloween, visiting grandparents, sports, travel.
The state’s Blueprint for a Safer Economy released in late August contains metrics that determine when businesses can reopen and at what capacity as well as when in-person schools and churches can resume.
The state assigns a color-coded, four-tiered system to each county based on the number of COVID-19 cases and the percentage of positive cases out of the total number of tests administered.
The easy takeaway is that widespread testing of residents can help move the county to less restrictive tiers.
I’m sold. Where can I get tested? Adults age 18 and over can schedule a test Tuesdays through Saturdays at the San Mateo County Event Center and Mondays through Fridays at the Project Baseline site that regularly rotates to the county’s northern, southern and coastal areas (check the county’s testing page for dates and times).
The test involves a simple nose swab (That long stick inserted up your nose that looked like it would pierce your eyeball? Long gone).
If your test comes back negative — and we all hope so — it does not mean you’re free of the virus from here on out. You should get tested any time you think you may have been exposed to the coronavirus.
We are all in this for the long haul. Let us make getting testing something we do for our families, our friends, our local businesses — everyone.
Our comeback begins with you.
Carole Groom is a member of the San Mateo County Board of Supervisors.