$700,000 federal grant will help Long Beach clinic open new COVID-19 test centers

The TCC Family Health clinic based in Long Beach received over $700,000 in federal grant money to expand the clinic’s COVID-19 testing capacity amid a citywide shortage in testing availability.

Dr. Elisa Nicholas, TCC Family Health CEO, said the testing sites will soon open up in some of the hardest hit areas of Long Beach, but right now, there’s a shortage of testing kits across Los Angeles County thanks to a surge of coronavirus infections.

The clinic is still in the planning stages of its testing expansion as it waits for the the physical test kits to arrive.

“We are awaiting word as to when we can fully begin offering testing services,” Nicholas said. “We are hoping it will be within the next few weeks.”

Nicholas said her staff is planning to have drive-up and walk-up testing locations in Central Long Beach at 1900 Atlantic Ave., and another one in North Long Beach near Artesia Boulevard or near Hamilton Middle School.

In addition to testing, Nicholas said the clinic will be able to treat, educate, advise and connect with individuals who test positive. The clinic will also assist the Long Beach Department of Health and Human Services in tracing community infections.

According to the Community Clinic Association of Los Angeles County, public clinics and health centers serve over 1.7 million patients annually in Los Angeles, and are considered the frontline in the fight against the coronavirus. They often provide medical services to underserved communities, the association said in a statement.

TCC Family Health serves 40,000 patients citywide, with locations in North, West and Central Long Beach, areas of town where the positivity rates for infection are the highest, according to city data.

In early May, the Health Resources and Services Administration—an agency of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services—announced it received $583 million for its Expanding Capacity for Coronavirus Testing initiative via funding from the federal government’s Paycheck Protection Program and the Health Care Enhancement Act.

Although the grant funds help clinics increase testing, “it cannot buy lab capacity or increase lab turnaround time on test results—the two issues proving the most challenging as case numbers surge in LA County and demand for testing soars,” the clinic association said.

Since Tuesday, Long Beach officials said the city’s positivity rate is just over 15%, nearly twice what the state allows to qualify for faster reopening.

Hospitalizations and the positivity rate—or percentage of those tested who test positive—is now close to 10% countywide.

“We are in an alarming and dangerous phase in Los Angeles County,” Barbara Ferrer, the county’s director of public health, said Wednesday. “And these numbers reflect behaviors from three weeks ago.”

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Sebastian Echeverry is the North Long Beach reporter through the Report for America program. Philanthropic organizations pledged to cover the local donor portion of his grant-funded position with the Long Beach Post. If you want to support Sebastian's work, you can donate to his Report for America position at lbpost.com/support.
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