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Advancing Community wellness in the Coachella Valley

Rapid COVID-19 antibody testing sites open across Coachella Valley

Masked and gloved man in medical gear holds up a vial marked "antibody testing."

Appointments are now being accepted for rapid antibody tests funded by the Desert Healthcare District and Foundation at various sites across the Coachella Valley.

All sites require anyone seeking a test to call first to make an appointment. In some cases, such as with Borrego Health and Clinicas De Salud Del Pueblo, callers will be asked questions as part of a screening process to determine whether the antibody test or a PCR test is needed. After the patient is counseled, clinicians will decide which test to give.

To receive the antibody test from Borrego, “a person cannot have had any symptoms that could be related to COVID-19 for four weeks prior to testing," said Dr. Edgar Bulloch of Borrego Health. "They must also have no recent history of exposure to a known positive patient.”

Dr. Gloria Graham of Clinicas also emphasized the importance of timing between having symptoms and taking the antibody test. "We are testing for antibodies which take 10-14 days to be picked up by the test," she said. "Testing too early will give a negative result which can be falsely negative."  

At Desert AIDS Project in Palm Springs, patients are not required to have had coronavirus symptoms to receive the antibody test, according to Jack Bunting, PR specialist for D.A.P.

The antibody test requires a small blood sample and produces results in about 10 minutes. The test checks for a type of antibody called immunoglobulin G (IgG) that is the result of past exposure to COVID-19, also known as the novel coronavirus. The human body produces IgG antibodies as part of the immune response to the virus. It usually takes about 10 to 18 days to produce enough antibodies to be detected in the blood.

Experts believe that people who have recovered from the virus have some protection in the short term, but the long-term reinfection risk is still unknown.

“This is a very important tool for helping us better establish the real rate of infection in the community and determine who might be able to return to work safely when the economy reopens,” said Dr. Conrado Bárzaga, CEO of Desert Healthcare District. “From a public health perspective, the findings will also help the District develop plans for dealing with COVID-19 over the coming months, particularly as it relates to the 80,000 people in the valley who don’t have medical insurance.”

The three federally qualified health centers that are conducting the tests – Borrego Health, Desert AIDS Project and Clinicas de Salud del Pueblo – specified that no one would have an out-of-pocket expense to be tested. However, Borrego and Clinicas will bill health insurance providers for the educational component of a patient’s visit if the visit lasts longer than five minutes.

The District’s Board of Directors approved allocating $350,000 for the rapid antibody tests at a special meeting on April 3. One of the three health centers purchased the tests for all to use. All three centers ran internal validation studies of the tests and confirmed their accuracy. They believe that the validity tests now offer a certain level of confidence in its use.

“Overall I could not be happier with the performance of this test , and [I] am very confident with its use in our defined clinical setting,” said Dr. Christopher Foltz, an infectious disease physician at Desert AIDS Project. "

Since March 24, the District Board has approved $1.2 million in funding for community programs to help Coachella Valley residents in response to COVID-19. The funding includes $450,000 in COVID-19 operating support for the valley’s three federal qualified health centers.

New COVID-19 rapid antibody testing sites:

Eastern Coachella Valley

  • Borrego Health, City of Coachella, Twentynine Palms Band of Mission Indians, Desert Healthcare District, Riverside County, 85365 Dillon Road in Coachella, just west of SR 86, south of Spotlight 29 Casino; (833) 624-1097.  By appointment 6:30 a.m. to 9:30 a.m. Fridays (Borrego Health Call Center: (855) 436-1234)
  • Centro Medico Oasis, 88775 76 Avenue, Suite 1, Thermal; 760-397-2501. Drive-up and on-site testing 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday-Friday.
  • Centro Medico Coachella, 55497 Van Buren St., Thermal; 760-399-4526. Drive-up testing 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday-Friday; on-site testing 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday-Friday
  • Martha’s Village Clinic, 83791 Date Ave., Indio; 760-391-6000. Drive-up testing 9 a.m. to 11 a.m. Tuesday/Thursday; on-site testing 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday/Wednesday/Friday (closed noon to 1 p.m.)
  • Centro Medico Cathedral City, 69175 Ramon Road, Bldg. A, Cathedral City; 760-321-6776. Drive-up testing 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday-Friday
  • Clinicas de Salud del Pueblo, 50249 Cesar Chavez Street, Unit K, Coachella; 760-393-0555. Clinic testing by appointment 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday-Friday
  • Clinicas de Salud del Pueblo, 91275 66th Avenue, Suite 500, Mecca; 760-396-1249. Clinic testing by appointment 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday-Friday

Western Coachella Valley

  • Centro Medico, 69175 Ramon Road, Bldg. A, Cathedral City; 760-321-6776. Drive-up testing 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday-Friday
  • Desert Hot Springs Community Health Center, 66675 Pierson Blvd., Desert Hot Springs; 760-676-5240. Drive-up and on-site testing 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday-Friday
  • Stonewall Medical Center, 68555 Ramon Road, Cathedral City; 760-507-3310. Drive up testing, 9 a.m. to 11 a.m. Tuesday/Thursday
  • Desert AIDS Project, 1695 N. Sunrise Way, Palm Springs; 760-992-0407.  On-site testing by appointment 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday-Friday

About the Desert Healthcare District and Foundation

The Desert Healthcare District is a local government agency formed in 1948. Its mission is to achieve optimal health at all stages of life for all District residents. The District includes more than 400,000 residents and encompasses the entire Coachella Valley. The District and Desert Healthcare Foundation, together, are one of the largest funders in the valley. These funds are used to assist residents — especially the underserved — in accessing vitally needed resources such as primary and behavioral healthcare, housing, food and transportation resources.