In an effort to provide more tests in the disproportionately affected South Bay, San Diego County has set up a coronavirus testing site at the San Ysidro Port of Entry.
The free testing site, which is located at the PedEast crossing, will focus on offering tests to essential workers from Mexico and returning U.S. citizens. No appointments will be necessary at the walk-through site, which will offer about 200 tests daily from 6:30 to 10:30 a.m., Monday through Friday.
County Board of Supervisors, Greg Cox said the times will change on Aug. 17 to 6:30 a.m. to noon.
"On Wednesday, we had 78 tests taken at that location and Thursday we had 118 tests," Cox said. "Starting Monday we will be extending those hours."
Jaime Velasquez, a U.S. Army Veteran who lives in Mexico said it is almost a necessity to test at the crossing with hundreds of thousands of U.S. citizens living across the border.
"You got close to half a million people across that border that come to work [in the U.S.] every day and there's work here," Velasquez said. "I've been a border person all my life -- born in Calexico, raised in Mexicali -- so I know what it's all about. I think [testing at the border] is a great idea."
Velasquez planned to take advantage of the testing on Thursday because he falls into the high-risk category of people that are more likely to be affected by the disease. He's had friends die from COVID-19 complications.
"This virus is for real and these people, I couldn’t even get to say goodbye to them, but I was told they passed away because of the virus so I know it's happening," he said.
County public health officer, Dr. Wilma Wooten, said it was important to open a testing site at the border since the southern region of the county has been highly impacted by the pandemic.
“Well, we know that individuals in the South Bay are the hardest hit. And the location was selected for three reasons,” Wooten said during a county COVID-19 update press conference on Tuesday. “Number one, again, increased number of cases in that region so we are increasing testing access. Number 2, we know individuals who live in Baja California and across the border so also individuals that are U.S. citizens can be tested there. And then third – essentials workers that cross over into the U.S., that is an opportunity to test them.“
Those who get tested will not be asked about their immigration status nor about the people who live with them. Results will be available three to five days after the test is administered.
Cecilia Valencia, an Escondido resident who was in Tijuana, told NBC 7 she saw the site when she crossed into San Ysidro on Wednesday. She and her son decided to get tested for the virus.
"They told me to stick the swab in my nose, turn it like two times on each nostril and then that's it," Valencia said of the process. "Put it back in the little tube and that's it."
Valencia's son had tested positive for COVID-19 three months ago, exposing her to the illness. She was isolated for some time and not able to return to work until she got tested. Although her insurance would cover the costs of a test, she said it was difficult to find available appointments.
"I'm like, it's so difficult to get an appointment," Valencia said. "I was going to have it done, my test, in TJ with my doctor, but I don't know if my work was going to accept it."
She said she was glad the border-area testing site is now available, and that it's free since mounting unemployment persists.
San Diego County has remained on California's state monitoring list for the past several weeks due to the number of positive coronavirus cases. To see the latest information on cases in the county, click here.