& Objectives

On October 30, 2020, Governor Gavin Newsom announced the opening of the California Department of Public Health (CDPH) Valencia Branch Laboratory, an innovative new laboratory in California that is designed to increase the state’s COVID-19 testing capacity and reduce test turnaround time. Built in partnership with PerkinElmer, the laboratory began processing tests the first week of November 2020, and when fully operational will enable the state to more than double its COVID-19 molecular diagnostic testing capacity.

The additional testing capacity will allow California to better serve schools, health care providers and hard-to-reach communities like essential workers, those in congregate settings and communities of color, who are at higher risk of contracting COVID-19.

Through the CDPH Valencia Branch Laboratory, California will eventually be able to conduct an additional 150,000 tests per day. In addition to expanding testing capacity, the laboratory 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

How Organizations Can 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.


How Schools Can Partner with Valencia Branch Laboratory

If you are a school, school district, or local education agency interested in partnering with the Valencia Branch Laboratory to expand COVID-19 testing, and want to learn how you can get involved with State of California’s effort to increase testing in schools and local communities, start here:

The Playbook to Stand Up Community-Based Collection Sites is designed to offer schools and other organizations a step-by-step guide on how to partner with the Valencia Branch Laboratory to ramp up COVID-19 testing capacity.

If you are a school, school district, or local education agency interested in receiving more detailed information about partnering with the Valencia Branch Laboratory, please sign up below to attend a webinar learn more about California’s COVID-19 testing program for K-12 schools. 

Frequently Asked Questions – Valencia Branch Laboratory

Q: Can we test minors (under the age of 13)?

A: Yes, however 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:

2007 Guideline for Isolation Precautions: Preventing Transmission of Infectious Agents in Healthcare Settings

CDC Isolation Precautions

COVID-19 Overview and Infection Prevention and Control Priorities in Healthcare Settings

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).

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