Kaiser Permanente is rushing to build a 7,700-square-foot state-of-the-art lab by June 1 that will be able to conduct 10,000 new coronavirus tests a day and help the state ease its shelter-in-place orders, a Kaiser official said Wednesday.
Dr. Brian Missett, a radiation oncologist who is associate executive director of the Kaiser Permanente Medical Group, said test results from the $14 million lab on Second Street in North Berkeley will be available in well under 24 hours.
Missett said Kaiser, which has 4.5 million members in Northern California, currently is able to conduct about 1,500 tests a day for hospitalized and high-risk patients, so the new lab will be “a notable expansion.”
He said when the new facility is ready, Kaiser will be able to test more people without symptoms, such as health care workers and nursing home employees who may be exposed to the virus at work and need to be retested periodically.
Widespread testing is necessary so health officials can quickly and easily identify positive cases and trace each one’s contacts to tell them to self-quarantine.
The idea is to monitor populations and put the brakes on future outbreaks.
Currently, testing is available to Kaiser members and Kaiser employees who have Kaiser insurance.
Missett said Kaiser is coordinating with a state Covid-19 task force to see if it can provide tests for non-members when the new facility opens.
Kaiser officials said the process of designing, permitting and building a new facility normally would take at least 15 months or several years but because city of Berkeley officials cooperated and worked with them quickly, the entire process will only take 60 days. They said it only took five days to get a building permit.
“The city has really been a good partner.”
Construction work on the new lab is being done 24 hours a day, seven days a week, according to Kaiser officials.