Oakland nonprofits will partner with UCSF this weekend for a mass testing initative in the Fruitvale district of Oakland, a community hard hit by the coronavirus pandemic. In this file photo, Carla Furtado in May works to screen and check in patients as they wait in line to be seen at Terra Nova Clinic in Fruitvale.">
© Jessica Christian / The Chronicle
Oakland nonprofits will partner with UCSF this weekend for a mass testing initative in the Fruitvale district of Oakland, a community hard hit by the coronavirus pandemic. In this file photo, Carla Furtado in May works to screen and check in patients as they wait in line to be seen at Terra Nova Clinic in Fruitvale.
Public health officials and community advocates in Oakland will launch a mass coronavirus testing initiative in Oakland’s Fruitvale district Saturday as the predominantly low-income, Latino neighborhood struggles with a disproportionately high number of infections.
The testing initiative — which organizers postponed for two weeks due to poor air quality from recent wildfires — is spearheaded by UCSF and a coalition of Oakland organizations, including the Unity Council and La Clinica.
Organizers said they hope to administer the free tests to up to 4,000 adults and children through Sunday and will also administer antibody tests to track previous coronavirus infections.
The goal is to identify and support people who are unknowingly infected with the virus and gather data that may help reduce the spread of infections among Latinos in Fruitvale. The initiative is particularly critical in this community, which accounts for a significant number of Oakland’s roughly 8,300 coronavirus cases.
The city’s 94601 Zip code — which includes the Fruitvale district — has a case rate of 4,003.7 per 100,000 people, according to data from the Alameda County Public Health Department. That’s roughly twice Oakland’s case rate of 1,970.3. Alameda County has a case rate of 1,270.6, data show.
“As soon as shelter-in-place started, we started seeing the impact it was having on the community immediately,” said Chris Iglesias, CEO of the Unity Council, a nonprofit that serves low-income families in Fruitvale. “There was an immediate need for food, an immediate need for financial resources. And then we started seeing people testing positive — not just our clients but our staff.”
Iglesias said the testing initiative will mirror a mass UCSF antibody testing of nearly 4,000 people in San Francisco’s Mission District, which showed a high number of previous infections among low-income Latinos who continued going to work while most people sheltered in place. It also found that Latinos were more likely to continue going to work despite the shelter-in-place order, which increased their infection rates.
Organizers expect to see similar results in Fruitvale, where Latinos are not only contracting the virus at higher rates, but struggling with the economic fallout of the pandemic. Many families are experiencing food insecurity and significant drops in income and are unable to quarantine if they contract the virus because they live in crowded homes, said Jane Garcia, CEO of La Clinica.
“We’ve had to convert to telehealth (appointments) from the onset of the virus and we’re finding that they’re having trouble paying their phone bills,” Garcia said. “It’s really compromising our abilities to access our folks that way.”
An estimated 66,000 people live in the Fruitvale district, according to data from the Unity Council. Roughly 43% of residents are Latino. An estimated 32% of Fruitvale households earn less than $35,000 per year, data show.
Low-income Latinos who work essential jobs and live in crowded housing to afford skyrocketing rents remain among the most vulnerable to COVID-19 — a pattern that has persisted across the U.S. throughout the pandemic. Yet testing sites are often hard to find in low-income neighborhoods — a problem that has also plagued Fruitvale, organizers said.
“We know that the Fruitvale is one of the most impacted areas in Alameda County,” said Dr. Alicia Fernandez, professor of medicine and director of the UCSF Latinx Center of Excellence, who is helping to lead the testing initiative. “We know that more testing is needed. But the antibody test will also help us know how much COVID-19 has already been there.”
Testing will take place from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday and Sunday in La Clínica’s parking lot at 35th Avenue and East 12th Street.
Residents are expected to get their test results within four days of the event, according to organizers. Results for antibody tests will be available within two weeks. Organizers said they plan to follow up with people who test positive for the virus to connect them to resources and ensure they isolate from friends and family.
Residents who get tested will also be asked to participate in two UCSF research studies focused on workplace risk factors during the pandemic. Researchers will examine whether residents’ employers require face masks and follow social-distancing requirements, among other factors.
“We know from the Mission study and other studies that exposure in the workplace is one of the chief ways that some people become infected,” Fernandez said. “We want to learn more about specific practices that may be associated with less risk to workers.”