Nurses Miniimahe and Megan prep for a patient to be tested at the West Berkeley testing site. Photo: Pete Rosos

Anyone who lives or works in Berkeley and has COVID-19 symptoms can now call the city to request an appointment to get tested, the city announced Wednesday afternoon.

Those symptoms include cough, shortness of breath, fever, chills, repeated shaking with chills, muscle pain, headache, sore throat and newly losing a sense of smell, Berkeley’s Health Officer Dr. Lisa Hernandez said Wednesday in a prepared statement.

Community members can call the test screening line by dialing 510-981-5380 to speak with a Berkeley Public Health nurse. Tests will be scheduled weekdays from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the city’s West Berkeley facility. Children with symptoms who are at least 2 years old can also be tested.

“This expansion is part of the City’s effort to establish tools that interrupt COVID-19 transmission, which leads to broader relaxation of shelter-in-place rules. Testing, follow-up contact tracing, isolation and quarantines all are essential to limiting the spread,” Hernandez said. Previously, the city’s testing efforts focused on vulnerable community members and essential workers.

As of Wednesday, the city had reported the results of more than 1,300 COVID-19 tests on its new data dashboard, which went live over the weekend. That figure includes results for Berkeley residents who were tested in the city as well as elsewhere. Berkeley so far has a 5% positive rate, which is lower than many other jurisdictions in the region. That could change, however, as more tests are conducted.

On Wednesday, Hernandez urged anyone who has their own health care provider to call that person first “as capacity has greatly expanded in recent weeks. Your provider will always be the source of any follow-up care or advice.”

Tests do not prevent infection from COVID-19, which has no medical treatment or vaccine, Hernandez wrote.

“A test is just a snapshot in time. Symptoms develop anywhere from 2-14 days after an exposure,” she said. “The best protections from COVID-19 are for everyone to shelter-in-place and, when out, to wear a face covering while keeping at least six feet from anyone else. We know people can be infected anywhere in our community through this easily transmitted virus. COVID-19 spreads through seemingly innocuous acts like talking without a face covering to a friend who is less than six feet away.”

Berkeley Public Health staff will alert anyone who tests positive for COVID-19 and provide information about self-isolation.

“Many, if not most, will have mild symptoms and can take care of themselves in isolation at home,” Hernandez wrote.

There will also be an investigation, including contact tracing, to locate others who may have been exposed. As part of the investigation, staff will determine who might need to isolate to see if symptoms develop.

“These acts prevent spread,” Hernandez said. “And it is critical work as we enter future phases of this pandemic.”

To date, widespread testing shortages in most places have resulted in an incomplete picture of COVID-19 infection rates.

“As the City, region, and private providers all test more, we will learn more and be able to better adapt our response,” Hernandez said.

As of Wednesday, there had been 60 lab-confirmed COVID-19 cases in Berkeley and one death. Forty-three of the people who got sick have recovered.

Editor’s Note: Also on Wednesday, the state of California announced a new website where people can find testing locations nearby. Background on the goal of the new map is posted on the state’s public health website.

Emilie Raguso (former senior editor, news) joined Berkeleyside in 2012 and covered politics, public safety and development until her departure in 2022. In 2017, Emilie was named Journalist of the Year...