Coronavirus

Covid-19 Testing Expands in Pajaro Valley, Central Coast

New sites aimed at erasing Covid-19 ‘testing deserts’ along Central Coast

People line up for Covid-19 testing at the Public Library in Castroville on Saturday. PHOTO: TARMO HANNULA

The Clinica de Salud del Valle de Salinas (CSVS) is now hosting a pop-up Covid-19 testing site every Saturday at Las Lomas Market, bringing a much-needed resource to the small rural community in the northern reaches of Monterey County.

The pop-up site is one of five CSVS established last month in hopes of erasing so-called testing deserts throughout the Central Coast. It also is hosting weekly pop-up sites in King City (Monday), Soledad (Tuesday) and Salinas (Thursday-Friday). 

No appointment or insurance is needed to receive a test at those sites. Tests are conducted on a first-come, first-served basis, and run from 2-6pm at every location. They will run through the end of the year, CSVS officials say.

All of them are located at community markets, bringing testing directly to the people at a time in which cases of the novel coronavirus have risen statewide and locally, says CSVS CEO Dr. Maximilian Cuevas.

“I think people are now more and more concerned and wanting to get a test,” he said. “That’s why we decided to look at the areas that don’t have sufficient testing around the county, and the north parts of the county are one of those.”

For months, the closest testing site for North Monterey County residents was at Watsonville’s Ramsay Park, and the data reflects that reality. Santa Cruz County spokesman Jason Hoppin said that site, which opened in early May, is the seventh-most used Covid-19 testing site in OptumServe’s net of state-funded locations throughout California.

The daily testing capacity there recently doubled to 330 tests, and it is now open seven days a week. Hoppin said that in its first week of expanded testing it was reaching its capacity and then some.

Hoppin also said that last month there were 500-600 tests being conducted a day throughout the county. During the first week of December, the daily average jumped to 719, Hoppin said.

The increase in demand for testing is unsurprising, given the uptick in cases locally, Cuevas says. 

There were more than 1,100 active Covid-19 cases in Santa Cruz County as of Wednesday.

Over the course of the pandemic, Watsonville has been the most impacted community in the county. There have been more than 2,800 cases identified in the county’s southernmost city, according to data reported by Santa Cruz County officials, meaning it has 53% of the county’s cases despite holding just 18.7% of its population.

According to data reported by Monterey County officials, there have been 459 confirmed cases of Covid-19 in the communities in the 95076 zip code that fall in their jurisdiction, which includes Las Lomas and Pajaro. But the total number of cases in that zip code is north of 3,100 when including Santa Cruz County territory.

Monterey County, which has a population of roughly 435,000, has conducted more than 140,000 Covid-19 tests, but Cuevas says that is not enough to understand the true scope of the outbreak and to determine where additional testing and funding is needed.

“In reality, we should be closer to half a million tests for a county our size,” he said.

More than 85,000 tests have been conducted in Santa Cruz County, which has a population of about 273,000.

Cuevas says CSVS has offered testing at all 11 of its clinics throughout Monterey County, including its location in Pajaro, since June when federal funding and the necessary supplies were available.

Monterey County has also recently expanded its testing by adding a site in Castroville at the public library. That site, which opened on Dec. 1, is run by state officials and OptumServe, and offers no-charge testing from Tuesday through Saturday from 8am-8pm. Walk-ins are accepted from 4-7pm.

That site is expected to alleviate some of the burden placed upon the Ramsay Park site.


To schedule a test at the Watsonville or Castroville site, visit lhi.care/covidtesting.

The CSVS pop-up testing sites are as follows:

  • Mondays: La Princesa Market, 620 Broadway St., King City
  • Tuesdays: El Pueblo Market, 128 Kidder St., Soledad
  • Thursdays: La Princesa Market, 614 Williams Road, Salinas
  • Fridays: La Princesa Market, 950 N. Sanborn Road, Salinas
  • Saturdays: Las Lomas Market, 182 Hall Road, Watsonville
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