In an effort to curb rising coronavirus cases and reopen the local economy, the city of Riverside started offering new, cost-free COVID-19 tests on Wednesday, officials announced.
Riverside Mayor Rusty Bailey said at a news conference Tuesday that the county has “artificially high” case counts, which can mislead state health officials into believing COVID-19 is widespread and restrictions are needed.
“When only sick people are being tested, our case counts are artificially high and are currently preventing us from changing tiers,” Bailey said at the news conference.
As of Wednesday, Riverside County remained in the state’s most restrictive purple tier with a case rate of 13.9 per 100,000 residents, a positivity rate of 6.7% and a health equity quartile positivity rate of 8.5%.
In order to move to the red tier, the county needs to maintain a case rate below 7.0 per 100,000 residents, a positivity rate below 8% and a health equity quartile positivity rate below 8% for two consecutive weeks.
“We want our schools, our local businesses, our places of worship and entertainment and our tourist locations to be able to reopen as soon as safely possible,” Bailey said. “Increased testing can help us accomplish those goals.”
To get a more accurate picture of the virus’s spread in the Inland Empire, Riverside officials said the city has teamed up with San Dimas-based company Curative to provide free, self-administered COVID-19 tests so that more people, especially those who are symptom-free, can get tested.
The tests are available to anyone with an appointment, not just Riverside residents, officials said.
Lucy Licht, who heads Curative’s Southern California partnerships, said the test is “one of the most accurate tests on the market.” She added that administering the test is also easy and painless.
Curative’s saliva-based diagnostic test, which was developed by researchers at the Yale School of Public Health and approved by the Federal Drug Administration in August, could be at least as accurate — possibly more so — than the commonly used, more invasive nasal swab tests in screening for the coronavirus, a Yale University study found.
“Just cough a few times, swab in your mouth, put the swab in a container, hand it to a medical professional and that’s it,” Bailey said, adding that test results will be available to test recipients within 48 hours by text message or email.
The newly available saliva tests were announced as county health officials reported that COVID-19 hospitalizations are up 57% compared to this time last month, the Press-Enterprise reported.
The city opened up a testing site at 8 a.m. Wednesday at the Mission Grove Shopping Center, in front of the former Kmart at 375. E. Alessandro Blvd. Testing will be available from 8 a.m. until 4 p.m., seven days a week.
People can also go to a mobile testing site starting at the California Baptist University on Thursday. The mobile sites will be open from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the following locations and dates:
- Thursday, Nov. 12: California Baptist University, 8432 Magnolia Ave.
- Friday, Nov. 13: California Baptist University, 8432 Magnolia Ave.
- Saturday, Nov. 14: Ryan Bonaminio Park, 5000 Tequesquite Ave.
- Sunday, Nov. 15: Ryan Bonaminio Park, 5000 Tequesquite Ave.
- Monday, Nov. 16: Shamel Park, 3650 Arlington Ave.
- Tuesday, Nov. 17: Patterson Park, 1846 W. Linden St.
- Wednesday, Nov. 18: Bordwell Park, 2008 Martin Luther King Blvd.
- Thursday, Nov. 19: Arlanza Library, 8267 Philbin Ave.
- Saturday, Nov. 21: Arlington Heights Sports Park, 9401 Cleveland Ave.