Santa Clara County launched a door-to-door coronavirus testing effort this week to curb a pandemic that’s spiraling out of control.
Community leaders started knocking on doors Thursday, offering free tests that people can choose to self-administer with nose swabs. Results are delivered in 24 to 48 hours.
The program started with a focus on neighborhoods in East San Jose, where 55% of the population is Latino and many can’t easily access testing.
“We recognize our communities in East San Jose are being hardest hit by the COVID pandemic,” said Dr. Analilia Garcia, the county’s racial and health equity director. “For the last few months, we have been working with community partners to do outreach and engagement. We recognize there’s fear and mistrust about COVID-19 and especially testing and what people can expect if they test positive. We have been focused on bringing testing into neighborhoods and households as another opportunity to mitigate the barriers to accessing a test.”
Santa Clara is experiencing the most severe pandemic of the nine counties in the Bay Area, with just 12% of the county’s intensive care unit capacity available as of Friday. Of the ICU beds occupied, 27% are COVID patients.
The sickest patients are cared for in ICUs and these units within hospitals are filling up quickly across the state as new cases reach their highest levels since the start of the pandemic.
The Latino community has been hit especially hard in Santa Clara, representing 55.4% of all cases when they make up 25.8% of the county’s total population.
Garcia called the situation dire. “We at the county are doing everything we can to stop this runaway train,” she said.
Garcia said the community leaders going to homes for testing are bilingual and have a history of engagement in the community. They show up at homes unannounced in protective gear, and if people aren’t home, they leave behind fliers on doors saying they’ll return.
“We are hoping to administer as many test as we can,” said Garcia. “Every encounter is different.”
Community leaders were welcomed at the first home they approached on Thursday.
“We had a very pleasant encounter with a family of three people who said yes to testing,” said Garcia. “They said, ‘Yes, wow, great.'”