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Alhambra Begins Testing Residents for COVID-19; City’s Death Toll Now Five

  • The City of Alhambra begins testing residents for COVID-19 in front of City Hall on May 4, 2020. Photo by Helen Arase.

  • Vital Medical Services nurses use nasal swabs to collect specimens for COVID-19 testing at City of Alhambra's mobile testing site. Photo by Helen Arase.

  • Vital Medical Services nurses use nasal swabs to collect specimens for COVID-19 testing at City of Alhambra's mobile testing site. Photo by Helen Arase.

  • The City of Alhambra's mobile COVID-19 testing is on Second Street between Alhambra High School and City Hall. Photo by Helen Arase.

  • Alhambra residents check in for COVID-19 testing on Second Street. Photo by Helen Arase.


Alhambra , CA

The City of Alhambra began the week with a stark visual metaphor for pre-COVID-19 versus current pandemic life.

While the Alhambra buildings on both sides of Second Street below Main Street – City Hall and the Alhambra High School campus – were shuttered, the mobile COVID-19 testing site began accepting symptomatic Alhambra residents at 9 a.m. on Monday.

The City of Alhambra was given a block grant, $300,000 of which is being spent on testing as many as 1,600 residents through the month of May.

“Although testing is available nearby at East Los Angeles College, Pasadena and most recently the El Monte Airport, there are a lot of people that just can’t get outside of the city, so people were calling for it locally,” Mayor Ross Maza told Alhambra Source at the testing site. “The site couldn’t have been better with Alhambra High School being closed, City Hall being closed, it was just the perfect site to have it here locally.”

The set-up of the site is on the one-way portion of Second Street – between Alhambra High and the Civic Center where the public library, city hall and police station are located.

Symptomatic residents of Alhambra make appointments online and need to have confirmation of reservation ready when they arrive in a vehicle or on foot at the check-in table on the street near the library.

Vice Mayor David Mejia said that when he last checked, Monday through Thursday were booked to capacity, which is an estimated 80 to 100 tests per day.

Those in a vehicle will pull forward to two tents at City Hall – those on foot will walk to a table – and nurses, in full personal protective equipment, will perform nasal swabs tests. The nurse will put an extended cotton swab deep into the patient’s nose and, after removal, into a test tube to be sent for processing.

The company that has partnered with the city is Vital Medical Services. Angelique Campen, the Medical Director and co-founder said the company already had the infrastructure to execute and process these tests.

Vital Medical Services normally performs medical services and test samples like blood and urine for over 30 local city, police and fire departments and wanted to partner with cities, including Baldwin Park, who “want to stop the spread of this virus.”

“The bottom line is we have the resources at the ready, ready to help whoever needs it,” Campen said. “This testing center is going to make a huge difference for the City of Alhambra in helping to reduce the spread.”

Maza acknowledges that this testing site sandwiched between two Alhambra institutions is a strong reminder of how deeply the COVID-19 pandemic has struck the city.

“Even though you know it, until you see it here happening, you don’t realize it,” he said.

Mejia is hopeful the city will procure more test kits and says residents can still to go any other county testing site.

“At the end of the day, we are one Alhambra city, we have to take care of ourselves. We’re blessed to have this kind of money to help out our community,” Mejia told Alhambra Source at the site.

To date, Los Angeles County has reported five deaths and 87 cases in Alhambra. The county’s COVID-19 surveillance dashboard also says they’ve tested only 476 people in the city, which has a population around 87,000 people.

The city’s testing site opened a few hours ahead of Gov. Gavin Newsom’s announcement of slow reopening stages beginning on Friday.

Some retail stores – including bookstores, florists, sporting goods retailers, toy shops and music stores – will be allowed to open with modified guidelines. Newsom will announce later in the week how these businesses must operate with safe social distancing, as part of the new normal.

At the Los Angeles County daily press briefing, L.A. County Department of Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer said the county will also announce its guidelines this week.

When prompted by a reporter’s question on whether the county will maintain stricter social distancing orders, Ferrer seemed to indicate the county is ready to follow the governor’s lead.

In the daily status report, Ferrer announced 28 new deaths in the last 24 hours, bringing the total deaths in the county to 1,256.

Of the 1,256 deaths, 93% had underlying health conditions, and 49% of the total deaths – 616 people – are from institutional living facilities, mostly skilled nursing facilities.

Deaths among health care workers continue to rise – 12 of the now 15 were among those who worked in skilled and long-term nursing facilities.

“This week we will be sharing more information on the reopening. A lot is at stake as we reopen. The virus has not changed and it remains deadly. More die of COVID-19 in Los Angeles County than any other disease,” Ferrer said.

As she reminded the press that Monday’s numbers are usually low due to limited weekend testing, Ferrer reported 568 new cases, bringing the countywide total to 26,217.

Pasadena, which has its own health department, continues to report rising numbers of cases and fatalities. COVID-19 has claimed 56 of 439 positive cases – 50 of which were in long-term care facilities.

The county report stated that the SGV city of Monterey Park has 81 cases and 3 deaths; San Gabriel with 32 cases and 1 death; South Pasadena with 93 cases and 11 deaths; Rosemead with 40 cases and 1 death; and El Sereno section of Los Angeles with 101 cases and 14 deaths.

Testing for Alhambra residents is slated to run from May 4 to May 29, Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.

For more information or appointments, go to the city’s testing site.

Testing is limited to residents of Alhambra who are showing symptoms of COVID-19.

Result times range from 12 to 48 hours; Vital Medical Service’s Medical Director Angelique Campen is personally calling all positive test results to alert them and answer questions. Negative results will be emailed.

For information on L.A. County testing, go to the county’s testing site.

Want to help?

Need help?

Los Angeles County Department of Public Health page.

For all of the reporting from the Alhambra Source, go to our Stay Healthy page.

The Los Angeles County COVID-19 press briefing is streamed online at 1 p.m. Monday through Friday, on the L.A. County Facebook, Twitter and YouTube accounts.

Jon Thurber contributed to reporting

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