'Matter of equity': Sonoma community advocate hosts drive-thru COVID test site in his driveway

SONOMA, Calif. (KGO) -- In the North Bay, health care advocates are providing thousands of free rapid COVID-19 tests to local nonprofits. The tests can be pricey, out of reach for many underserved communities during the holidays when loved ones want to gather safely. One community advocate donated his own time, even his own driveway to help friends and neighbors get tested.

Mario Castillo had big plans on Christmas Eve- he's helping friends and neighbors feel safer.

Mario was holding a pop-up rapid test site at the foot of his driveway in Sonoma, allowing people self-test inside their cars. Jackie Mendoza said she couldn't find an appointment anywhere.



"I'm going out of town just to be safe for my family, I want to make sure I don't have COVID," said Mendoza.

"I saw that he posted on Facebook offering tests, we couldn't find another place on Christmas Eve, very grateful to him," said Tara Brown from Sonoma.

"It's a matter of equity, right," said Castillo.

Mario is the co-founder of Food For All. His his nonprofit just acquired hundreds of rapid tests, the same kind available at pharmacies but those tests can be impossible to find and pricey, out of reach for many low-income families.

RELATED: Bay Area experts share how they are avoiding getting COVID while traveling this holiday

"At the end of the day, that's what we need to do, take care of each other during this difficult time, that's what I'm trying to do here," said Castillo.

The tests were originally provided by IsoCare Network, a health care group which distributed more than 100,000 test kits to 35 nonprofits at a time when omicron is spiking.

"What we've seen over and over during pandemic is that people of color, low-income are impacted by this virus, they've suffered," said IsoCare Network medical director, Dr. Panna Lossy.

The hope is test kits will give families peace of mind this holiday.

RELATED: Biden announces plan to mail 500 million free rapid tests to Americans next month

Back at Mario Castillo's folks were waiting 15 minutes for their results.

He had 80 tests available. Two hours in, more than 50 were given. For Mario, it's the best gift ever.

"A lot of people are doing the right thing, getting tested, that's encouraging," he said.

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