PSR-LA Board Member, Dr. Hara Walks Us Through a Typical Day at a COVID-19 Testing Site in Southern California

If you’re wondering what it’s like at a testing site and what testing looks like, we spoke with COVID-19 Test Site Manager, Dr. Jimmy Hara. He spoke about his experience working on the frontline of the pandemic in Los Angeles County, the testing process, the importance of data to better understand the demographic of those who suffer the worst of the illness, and whether we’ve flattened the curve in Los Angeles. 

Can you walk us through the drive-through testing process?  

 Anyone interested in being tested is allowed testing. LA Care Health Plan is paying for ambulances to bring people from senior centers and other elderly who can’t drive to bring them to get tested. There is also walk-up testing. People can make appointments through the county website but the vast majority of people have not made appointments. But, we can make appointments for them on-site before we proceed with testing. It’s drive-through, people come in their car, and we give them a sheet that they complete with their name, email, and number. Once they complete the sheet they drive up to the data entry then they put it against their car window and they take a picture using their phone and they show it to the data entry folks who give them an appointment. At that point, they can get a testing kit.

The way we have it set up, they just put their window down just a little bit to take the form and the testing kit. The whole process is set up to protect those working at the test sites as well as those coming to get tests. There is very little contact between them.

They then proceed to the next station to conduct the test on themselves. There are people present who can walk them through how to do the test. It’s very simple, open the kit, cough 3 times vigorously into the elbow; then they pull out the kit and swab the right side of their mouth, left side, and roof of their mouth for 10 seconds, and then they put the swab into the kit and drop it off. Before they drive off, we offer them literature that’s been provided by the county available in Spanish and English.

We’re doing about 200 to 250 tests a day. We’ve been doing this since right before Easter and I’ve been here every day from 7am until 7pm.

Data is showing that Black and Latino and Indigenous communities are dying at a disproportionately higher rate than other racial groups due to COVID19. Is the test center taking note of the demographics and does the data coincide with these findings. 

Charles Drew is in a predominately African American and Latino community. We are capturing data in terms of ethnicity, income level, and once they get the test results they can understand better, the people who turn out to be positive, and what the demographic makeup comes to be.

From your perspective, working on the frontline of the health crisis, do you think that we have flattened the curve? 

If you look at LA City, it looks like the curve has flattened, the only thing is, once someone gets COVID, if they end up worsening and requiring ventilatory support, those are usually the people who die. We get the data a few weeks later and we find out they passed away. We have no way of predicting who those people are going to be. We initially said the elderly were at greater risk. In the African American community, we talk about all the co-morbidity, right? Such as diabetes, hypertension, heart disease, and asthma. So, even if they’re not 65 years older, they are at a higher risk to end up dying from the condition.

What’s been the most challenging part of your role? 

The past couple of weeks have been especially challenging because people who are coming to get tested are more anxious and concerned or worried because maybe someone they know has died due to the virus. We’re dealing with the mental health aspects as well. They may even share that when they first get there through the small opening in their window.


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