The State of California is partnering with organizations across California to increase COVID-19 testing capacity and reduce test turnaround time. This additional testing capacity will allow California to improve the equitable distribution of testing resources to communities facing disproportionate effects of COVID-19 through a comprehensive testing program that provides polymerase chain reaction (PCR) through the California Department of Public Health’s (CDPH’s) Valencia Branch Laboratory (VBL) as well as antigen testing resources. In addition to expanding testing capacity, these efforts will support California in meeting a broader set of testing objectives, including:
Growing testing capacity to meet Californians’ testing needs
Improving accessibility of testing so individuals can obtain tests when appropriate
Ensuring cost sustainability of testing over time
Increasing equity in the distribution of tests by reaching communities most affected by the pandemic
California is offering two types of COVID-19 tests to organizations looking to partner for testing:
1) PCR Tests through Valencia Branch Laboratory
Polymerase chain reaction (PCR) tests are anterior nasal swabs that are processed at the CDPH Valencia Branch Laboratory with a rapid turnaround time of under 48 hours upon receipt to the lab.
2) Antigen Tests
Antigen tests are point-of-care tests that are processed on site with results typically available within 15-30 minutes. These tests should be conducted at least twice per week on the same population. For confirmatory PCR tests for antigen tests (as required), organizations may partner with Valencia Branch Laboratory.
If you are a local health jurisdiction or an organization potentially interested in partnering with the Valencia Branch Laboratory to launch a community-based testing site, please complete this interest form.
The Playbook to Stand Up Community-Based Collection Sites aims to offer a step-by-step guide to organizations on how to partner with the Valencia Branch Laboratory to ramp up capacity of COVID-19 testing. It includes five critical steps toward doing so, including:
- Creating a test plan
- Setting up for test collection
- Conducting tests
- Shipping your specimens to the state
- Reporting and billing
If you are a local health jurisdiction potentially interested in partnering with the Valencia Branch Laboratory to launch an OptumServe testing site, please complete this interest form.
Antigen tests are anterior nasal swabs which can be self-administered
Antigen tests are point-of-care tests that are processed on site
Results are available almost immediately (within 15-30 minutes)
People with positive test results or symptomatic people with negative test results will have to do a confirmatory PCR test
When To Use
Antigen testing is appropriate when testing people with symptoms or for people without symptoms when they are tested regularly at least twice per week (e.g. employees, students)
People should be tested two times per week or more often when using antigen tests
For general information about how to partner with the State of California and the Testing Task Force to provide COVID-19 Antigen Testing in your community, please review the following one-pager.
If you are an organization interested in launching a community-based antigen testing site, please complete this application form. If you are a school that wants to learn about antigen testing, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org. If you are a California Department of Social Services site, please contact CDPHRCFEBinax@cdph.ca.gov for more information.
The Antigen Testing Playbook offers a step-by-step guide to organizations on how to partner with the State of California to conduct antigen testing programs. It involves five steps:
Step 1: Identify testing need and submit application
Step 2: Onboard to chosen IT platform
Step 3: Prepare logistics for testing
Step 4: Train staff, sign Agreement, and order antigen tests
Step 5: Begin testing and deliver antigen test results
Before beginning testing and delivering antigen test results (step 5), organizations must pass the CDPH competency quiz after reviewing all trainings listed in the antigen testing playbook. The quiz can be taken as many times as necessary to receive a passing score of 100%.
If you are a school district or local education agency interested in learning more about School Testing and how to partner with the Valencia Branch Laboratory, please visit the Testing Task Force’s School Testing hub:
If you are a public school district or local education agency that would like to offer COVID-19 testing for qualifying high contact youth sports by partnering with the state’s Valencia Branch Laboratory, start here:
Q: Can we test minors (under the age of 13)?
A: Yes. For students testing in school settings, the parent/guardian must complete the registration process, provide consent, and use their email/phone to obtain results—and can do so through a pre-registration link at home. For minors testing in other settings, the parent/guardian must be present, in person, in order to complete the registration process, provide consent, and use their email/phone to obtain results. It is up to the parent/guardian’s discretion on whether they or the child will administer the test. A parent or guardian can receive the results on behalf of a child (ages under 13) when they provide consent on behalf of that child.
Q: What if someone getting tested does not have insurance?
A: Neither the patient nor the entity will be liable to pay for the test. The State will recoup costs through alternative funds for those without insurance.
Q: Do I need a doctor or nurse to set-up a site?
A: No, not where tests will be self-administered. All such samples sent to the CDPH Valencia Branch Laboratory can be completed via a Blanket Order issued by the State Public Health Officer. This means that as long as there is someone trained to supervise self-collection, no clinician is required.
Q: Do you need training to pack patient samples for transport?
A: Packing guidance for safe transport is provided with the shipment of kits and must be followed. Personnel handling patient samples must follow their institutional guidelines on safe biological sample handling.
Q: Do people transporting patient samples need to be trained?
A: For transporting patient samples, personnel must be trained in the proper safety, packing, and shipping regulations for Division 6.2, UN 3373 Biological Substance, Category B in accordance with the current edition of the International Air Transport Association (IATA) Dangerous Goods Regulations (DGR). Personnel should be trained in a manner that corresponds to their function-specific responsibilities.
Q: What disinfectant should personnel use to decontaminate work surfaces?
A: Decontaminate work surfaces and equipment with appropriate disinfectants. Use EPA-registered hospital disinfectants with label claims to be effective against COVID-19. Follow manufacturer’s recommendations for use, such as dilution, contact time, and safe handling. While CDC guidance includes using bleach for cleaning – DO NOT USE BLEACH OR PRODUCTS WITH BLEACH. These samples are transported in Molecular Transport Media (MTM), which can create cyanide gas when it comes in contact with bleach.
Q: How should the site personnel remove biohazardous waste from the site or testing area for decontamination and disposal?
A: Handle laboratory waste from testing suspected or confirmed COVID-19 patient samples as all other biohazardous waste in the laboratory. Currently, there is no evidence to suggest that this laboratory waste needs additional packaging or disinfection procedures.
For additional information, refer to the Biosafety in Microbiological and Biomedical Laboratories (BMBL) (5th edition)
Q: What are Standard Precautions?
A: Standard Precautions are the minimum infection prevention practices that apply to patient care, regardless of suspected or confirmed infection status of the patient, in any setting where health care is practiced. They are based on the principle that there is a possible risk of disease transmission from any patient, patient sample, or interaction with infectious material. Standard Precautions include hand hygiene and use of PPE when indicated, in addition to practices to ensure respiratory hygiene, sharps safety, safe injection practices, and effective management of sterilization and disinfection for equipment and environmental surfaces. The exact implementation of Standard Precautions should be determined by an activity-specific risk assessment.
For additional information, refer to the following:
Q: Do we need to refrigerate samples either during storage or during the shipping process?
A: No. While refrigeration isn’t necessary, it is most important that samples are not kept in direct sunlight. The ideal environment is room temperature (between 72 and 76 degrees Fahrenheit). Regarding the shipping process, following the packaging and shipping guidelines(which does not require refrigeration) is required for secure transportation of the sample while maintaining result accuracy (See Step 4 and Appendix A of the Playbook to Stand Up Community-Based Collection Sites for more information).