OAKLAND (CBS SF) — A multicultural community COVID-19 testing site offering services in a dozen Asian languages, including Chinese, Tagalog and Mongolian, conducted its first tests in Oakland’s Chinatown on Tuesday, community leaders said.

The testing site in Madison Park at 810 Jackson St. opened to everyone whether or not someone identifies as Asian American or Pacific Islander. The site doesn’t require payment nor insurance for testing and no one at the site can ask subjects about their immigration status.

People interested in testing also do not need to be a patient at Asian Health Services, which is partnering with Alameda County to manage the site.

Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf told the immigrant community that Asian Health Services “is a place that you can trust.”

She said the organization will provide not only testing but other services to cope with the results as well as the emotional and economic impacts of the novel coronavirus.

“We are fighting back against being blamed and ignored in this pandemic,” CEO of Asian Health Services Sherry Hirota said in a statement. “Our community masked early, felt the rise in anti-Asian hate and went underground. Now we must ensure that each of us is safe and supported.” 

Julia Liou, chief deputy of administration for Asian Health Services, said that Tuesday’s launch was about more than testing. The launch is also about the outreach and follow up, she said. If someone tests positive then they will likely need culturally and linguistically competent counseling and support, which Asian Health Services can provide.

A recent survey by Asian Health Services of 1,300 Asian Americans in Alameda County showed high rates of anxiety and fear, job loss and severe lack of food and income during the pandemic.

The testing rate among the respondents was a mere 3 percent, compared to an average of 10 percent among all ethnicities in California. 

Hirota said her organization wants to make sure the Asian and Pacific Islander community had access to testing, education, counseling, referrals, case management and compassion in a language and culture they are comfortable with.

“This is a place for total care,” said Oakland City Councilwoman Nikki Fortunato Bas, whose district includes Chinatown. The testing site, Bas said, “is a model for the entire state.” 

 “We feel confident that we’re going to get our community tested,” said Colleen Chawla, director of the Alameda County Health Care Services Agency.

The testing site is open Tuesdays from noon to 7 p.m. and Thursdays and Fridays from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. People who want to get tested can make an appointment at www.color.com/AHS. For help, people can call the multilingual line at Asian Health Services at (510) 735-3222.

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