By Kiet Do


HAYWARD (CBS SF) — A Hayward fire station offering free COVID-19 testing was forced to turn many people away Thursday as organizers continued to refine their methods to process the maximum number of test samples and best serve the public.

On Day 4 of the free testing, the lines of cars and people hoping to determine whether or not they already have coronavirus were long, stretching more than half a mile at one point.

COMPLETE COVERAGE: CORONAVIRUS PANDEMIC

Hayward Fire officials admitted to being overwhelmed at times.

“This is the first time that we’ve ever done this, so we’re making adjustments on the fly,” said Hayward Fire spokesperson Don Nichelson.

Officials were screening those arriving to get the free test. Only those who had a fever of at least 100 degrees or were have difficulty breathing or shortness of breath would be tested..

The firefighters were checking the temperatures of arriving people under orders to limit the influx of patients.

Because of the new requirements, many who waited in line were turned away, like Oakland resident Larry McGee, who missed the cutoff.

“I was trying to come here real quick. Thought I had beat the line, but it’s over,” said McGee.

Officials asked those who didn’t have a temperature or trouble breathing not to come for the free test.

“If you are not meeting those criteria, please go home. If the symptoms get worse, please come back,” said Nichelson.

Avellino Labs in Menlo Park is taking longer than expected to process the tests.

Earlier Thursday, Hayward city officials announced that 54 of the 207 people who were tested on the first day of operation came back with results that were positive for the coronavirus.

On Tuesday, 462 patients were tested. Those numbers have dropped the past two days. On Wednesday, 250 tests were administered. On Thursday, only 100.

“We needed to slow down a little bit, allow them to catch up. And hopefully, within the next couple of days, we’ll be back to that 370 that we originally posted,” said Nichelson.)

Hayward resident Ken Williams came down to get tested because he’s 74 and has a history of asthma, but his lack of symptoms got him turned away.

“This is because they’re so inundated now with people. And so they have to be more careful about who they test,” said Williams.

Officials said the samples that tested positive at Avellinos Lab were retested and the results then reported immediately to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Confirmed positive results also were shared with the person found to have the infection and later were reported by Hayward to public health officials in the county of residence of the individual.

In most cases, people who test positive through the Hayward Center learned the results in six hours or by the next day.

The Testing Center, at Hayward Fire Station #7, 28270 Huntwood Avenue in South Hayward, was scheduled to open every day from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Initially, the center had anticipated being able to process up to 370 samples a day.

On Thursday and potentially Friday, the number of tests taken at the center will be reduced and the center will close early to allow testing teams of Hayward firefighter-paramedics to conduct mobile targeted testing of vulnerable populations elsewhere in the community.

Under new traffic management practices, people can join drive-up and walk-up lines up until 10 a.m. each morning and again between 1 p.m. and 4 p.m. in the afternoon or until the test site approaches the maximum number of tests that can be performed that day.

The testing is free and is available to anyone who meets testing criteria, regardless of where they live or immigration status.

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