County Administrator's Office
For Immediate Release

Sonoma County expands testing options, shifts focus to PCR tests

Santa Rosa, CA  –  August 17, 2021  –  Updated on Aug. 20 to correct Dr. Mase's quote.

In response to growing demand for testing amid the current surge of COVID cases, the Sonoma County Department of Health Services has greatly expanded testing opportunities through private providers while freeing County Health to focus instead on outbreak and surveillance testing. 

As part of this expansion, the Sonoma County Department of Health Services has partnered with Curative, LHI, Molecular Matrix, and Fox Home Health to provide testing, thereby increasing the County’s capacity from 1,000 tests per week to roughly 14,000 tests per week. These clinics operated by private companies will replace the pop-up testing clinics previously operated by the County’s Field Services team, which will now be freed up to respond to the need for testing at shelters, skilled nursing facilities and other facilities to prevent outbreaks.

This transition also has enabled the County to establish clinics in Cloverdale, Healdsburg, Sonoma, Boyes Hot Springs, Petaluma, Guerneville, Rohnert Park, and Cotati. Previously, the Department of Health Services clinics had only been offered within Santa Rosa.

This shift in operations is due to an increased public demand for testing.
All providers reported administering tests beyond capacity in recent days. For example, LHI administered 749 tests at just four Sonoma County clinics from Aug. 3 to Aug. 6, which represented 41 percent over its capacity. 

As part of this transition to private testing, the Department of Health Services will no longer be providing rapid antigen tests. Previously, the County had offered rapid antigen tests, such as the BinaxNOW test, although all of those who have been tested were also required to take the more-sensitive PCR test. Going forward, only PCR tests will be provided.

“Antigen tests, such as BinaxNOW, should be used for individuals who exhibit symptoms of COVID-19 or for routine serial testing of high-risk groups,” said Sonoma County Health Officer, Dr. Sundari Mase. “Using the tests incorrectly can cause false-negative results and allow people to believe they are COVID-safe when instead they are capable of spreading the virus."

For individuals with no symptoms who have had known exposure to COVID-19 or who have spent time in an area where exposure was possible, an appropriately timed PCR test “is the best way to determine COVID-19 status,” Dr. Mase said.

Because demand is so high, most providers also have either discontinued or limited walk-ins temporarily. Here is how each of the providers are currently handling walk-ins: 

  • Curative: Walk-ins are limited due to high demand.Appointments are highly recommended.
  • LHI: Walk-ins may be available, but appointments are highly recommended
  • Molecular Matrix: Appointments are required at Foundry Wharf and Petaluma Valley Baptist Church in Petaluma. Walk-ins are accepted but appointments are recommended at Andy’s Unity Park and Bayer Farm in Santa Rosa.
  • Fox Home Health: Walk-ins are available, but appointments are recommended.

For the most up-to-date information about COVID-19, including how to sign up, visit Testing and Tracing in Sonoma County. For those looking for a testing clinic at a specific time or location, see the <a>pop-up testing calendar.

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Contact Information

Paul Gullixson
Communications Manager
County Administrator's Office
County of Sonoma
Address
575 Administration Drive
Suite 104A
Santa Rosa, CA 95403
38.464665, -122.725235