EXCLUSIVE: Hayward COVID-19 testing site moving, going appointment-only

HAYWARD, Calif. (KGO) -- ABC7 News has learned the city of Hayward's coronavirus testing site is expected to move off of the Cal State East Bay campus and transition to appointment-only testing in the coming weeks.

On August 3, the coronavirus test site will move to the Sky West golf course in Hayward and only accept people who have scheduled an appointment online, a Hayward Fire Department spokesman confirms.

RELATED: Everything you need to know about COVID-19 testing in California

In recent weeks, the drive-thru testing site on the college campus has seen a spike in demand for testing, creating wait times lasting hours.

"I think it's about four to five hours if they're the last person in line," said Captain Don Nichelson of the Hayward Fire Department.

The lines have stretched for miles, creating traffic backups on busy Mission Blvd., forcing staff to cut off the line before noon to stop additional people from getting in line once daily testing capacity is met.

On Friday, Hayward Fire confirms nearly 550 tests were conducted.

When the city's coronavirus testing center moved from Fire Station No. 7 to Cal State East Bay's campus in early April, Hayward Fire Chief Garrett Contreras said the site tested between 220 to 300 people a day.

In two weeks, when the test site moves to the golf course, scheduling is expected to drastically cut down on wait times, but testing capacity will also be affected.

RELATED: Hayward COVID-19 testing site slammed with patients, forced to cut off line and close early

Hayward Fire expects to test somewhere between 300 to 400 people a day - a hit to capacity as demand only increases.

"I think it's going to be a better transition to go to appointments to alleviate some of those wait times, and I think it will be more convenient for everybody," said Nichelson.

The city of Hayward will continue its partnership with Menlo Park-based Avellino Labs, which processes all lab work for the city-managed site.

Avellino Labs will also handle scheduling using a new website which will be rolled out in the coming weeks.

"We want to keep those decision making times critical, and that's a 48 hours to 72 hour window," said Eric Bernabei, chief sales and marketing officers for Avellino Labs.

The laboratory is currently partnered with a small number of local governments, mainly in California, running approximately 5,500 COVID-19 tests a day and returning 95% of positive and negative results in 48 hours, Bernabei confirmed.

At the Sky West testing site, the city will also begin accepting private insurance. Since the city became one of the first in the nation to develop a drive-thru testing site in March, the city has primarily covered the costs of staffing and testing. The city is now hoping to pass some of the costs on to private insurers.

For those without insurance, the test will still be offered at no out-of-pocket costs.

The city of Hayward also launched a new COVID19 testing hotline to answer frequently asked questions about getting a test.

The site is open 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday - Friday and is located in Lot A of the Cal State University East Bay Campus.

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