SAN DIEGO COUNTY, Calif. — A drive-thru COVID-19 testing clinic in Cardiff has been shut down by order of the County of San Diego. The San Diego County health department sent a cease and desist letter Wednesday to MiraCosta College, the site of the pop-up testing clinic.
The letter, signed by San Diego County Public Health Officer Wilma Wooten, stated:
“We asked this organization to provide proof that it has the necessary credentials and certifications required by State law in order to conduct tests. The organization has failed to provide such proof.”
Additionally, the letter stated:
“COVID Clinic’s testing process is not complying with state law and therefore may not be producing reliable and verifiable results.”
COVID Clinic began offering both nasal-swab testing and finger-stick antibody testing on Monday. Any patient who paid with a credit card online was able to access the testing. Antibody tests were offered at $75, nasal-swab tests were offered at $125.
The problem with the health department appears to related to the antibody test, according COVID Clinic spokesperson, Matt Collins. COVID Clinic representatives were in contact over the telephone Wednesday with Dr. Eric McDonald, the county’s director of epidemiology.
Last month, the FDA approved the development of finger-stick, antibody tests without FDA approval because new testing was badly needed in the wake of the pandemic emergency.
Dr Thomas Rogers, an infectious disease researcher with Scripps Research in La Jolla said COVID Clinic probably was operating legally under current FDA emergency guidelines. But Dr. Rogers had concerns that the company was handing out literature at the Cardiff testing site that indicated a positive antibody test result meant the “risk of contracting COVID again is nearly 0%.”
"The antibody tests, I think, are not in any way informative and they're falsely reassuring, which makes them dangerous," said Dr. Rogers.
"The thing that cannot be claimed in any way by anyone yet is that (antibodies) are protective, or you can't get it again, or you're immune, or your levels are appropriate to keep you safe. We don't know any of that information yet," said Rogers.
COVID Clinic has retained legal counsel and is considering reopening next week at a location in downtown San Diego. If that site opens, it may initially only be offering nasal-swab testing until legal matters are cleared up with the county.
MiraCosta College released the following statement on the matter to News 8 on Wednesday:
"The COVID Clinic exercised a civic permit for the rental of the parking lot at MiraCosta College’s San Elijo Campus. The clinic is not associated with or endorsed by the district. A civic use permit makes college facilities available to the community and service organizations, governmental entities, businesses, and both nonprofit and for-profit corporations may use certain college facilities when available. To support the community good during a pandemic, MiraCosta College waived the rental fee associated with use of the parking lot as the renting entity, COVID Clinic, indicated the clinic would be self-contained, provide traffic control, uphold safety standards, and other provisions for their employees and participants
The college allowed for one week of parking lot usage to end this Friday evening.
On Wednesday afternoon, after being contacted by San Diego County Public Health to cease the COVID Clinic operations, MiraCosta College took swift action. Within minutes of receiving a letter from Dr. Wooten, Director of Public Health Services County of San Diego Health and Human Services Agency, summarizing the unresolved communication with the county, MiraCosta College notified the organization that they must cease testing as soon as possible; no later than the end of business today, April 15.
As a collaborative partner in the San Diego community, our unwavering focus has been on flattening the curve to limit the impact and severity of the COVID-19 pandemic."
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According to the CDC, coronavirus (COVID-19) is a family of viruses that is spreadable from person to person. Coronavirus is believed to have been first detected in a seafood market in Wuhan, China in December 2019. If someone is sick with coronavirus, the symptoms they may show include mild to severe respiratory illness, cough, and difficulty breathing.
Currently, there is no vaccine, however, the CDC suggests the following precautions, as with any other respiratory illness:
Know how it spreads
There is no vaccine
The best way to prevent illness is to avoid being exposed to the virus
It is thought to spread mainly from person-person between people in close contact
And believed to be spread by respiratory droplets produced when an infected person coughs or sneezes
Wash your hands with soap and water for a minimum of 20 seconds
If soap and water aren't available, use hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol
Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth
Avoid close contact with people who are sick
Put distance between yourselves and others
Stay home when you are sick
Wear a facemask if you are sick
Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throw the tissue in the trash
If you don't have tissue, cough or sneeze into the inside of your elbow
Immediately wash your hands after coughing and sneezing
Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces using a regular household cleaning spray or wipe
You can find information on disinfecting and cleaning on the CDC's How to Protect Yourself page.
The California Department of Public Health has issued guidance on the use of cloth face coverings to protect against the spread of the novel coronavirus COVID-19.
The County of San Diego has made face coverings mandatory for those working with the public including grocery stores, pharmacies, gas stations, convenience stores, and similar businesses.
While officials say these face coverings are not a substitute for practices like social distancing and handwashing, there is evidence to suggest that the use of cloth face coverings by the public during a pandemic could help reduce disease transmission. Officials do not recommend the public use N-95 or surgical masks which are needed by health care workers and first responders.