Berkeley has contracted with a private company to set up a kiosk for COVID-19 testing in San Pablo Park. The pop-up test site will run Wednesday and Thursday by appointment only.  Photo: Lance Knobel

The city of Berkeley has contracted with a Los Angeles company to set up a kiosk in San Pablo Park where people can test themselves for the coronavirus.

Residents who make appointments online will be able to come to the pop-up site on Wednesday and Thursday and do an “oral-fluid” test for COVID-19, according to a community advisory. They will then drop their self-administered test into a receptacle. Results should come back in 24 to 48 hours. There will be someone at the kiosk to supervise.

As many as 300 people a day can do the test, according to Matthai Chakko, the city spokesman.

“Our goal is to use what is within our means to expand the availability of testing,” said City Manager Dee Williams-Ridley.  “This pilot testing program gives us a tool to see how we might expand access to more parts of our community.”

The city is working with Curative, Inc. which has “developed a simple oral fluid swab test that is self-administered by the patient, eliminating the need for PPE or for a healthcare worker,” according to the company’s website.

“The self-administered oral fluid swab involves having the person cough first, which releases virus from the upper and lower respiratory tract,” said Gabriel Poe, who works in media initiatives with Curative Inc . “The virus is then caught in the saliva, the patient then swabs the inside of their cheeks and the roofs of their mouths.”

The state of California has approved Curative’s saliva-based test and it is currently being used at drive-through testing sites in Los Angeles.

Testing at the kiosk is free for people without insurance, as is testing at Berkeley’s two other testing sites. Those with insurance will be asked to pay. People with insurance or Medi-Cal will have co-pays and deductibles waived for COVID-19 testing.

Berkeley is currently doing an average of 243 COVID-19 tests a day, according to city numbers. But in recent weeks, many getting tested have complained that is taking a week or longer to get results.  Three people in Berkeley have died of the coronavirus and 363 people have tested positive.

There are currently two other public testing sites in Berkeley. The state of California runs the main site, at 1730 Oregon St. and another one is run by Lifelong Medical Care at 1900 Sixth St. in the North Berkeley Senior Center parking lot.

Private labs and pharmacies also provide tests.

Update, 3 p.m.: This article was updated to remove the term saliva tests since the patient must also cough. Its proper term is an “oral-fluid” test, according to a company media liaison.

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Frances Dinkelspiel, Berkeleyside and CItyside co-founder, is a journalist and author. Her first book, Towers of Gold: How One Jewish Immigrant Named Isaias Hellman Created California, published in November...