El Dorado and Butte Counties Meet California Guidelines For Reopening

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Good morning.

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For weeks, officials have said California’s reopening will be incremental and varied across the state. On Tuesday, it became a little clearer what that actually looks like.

“If we love our community and our restaurants, let’s protect them,” Mr. Newsom said, adding that if consumers and workers feel unsafe, reopening more places won’t do much good.

I took this to mean universal testing had reached the city. That would be a major development, because pandemic experts have said that as many people as possible need to get tested to get a clear picture of Covid-19’s spread.

So even though I lacked symptoms, it seemed like a civic duty to accept the city’s invitation to be tested. I quickly clicked through the website to schedule an appointment. So did my wife.

So did this mean that my wife and I, who don’t fit the criteria, were taking a test away from others? My wife called 311, and a city worker said only essential workers or people with symptoms should be taking the test.

On Friday afternoon, we drove to the test site in downtown San Francisco. The lab had set up several white tents in a large parking lot, divided into two sections, for drivers and for pedestrians. People with cars drove through a lane of orange cones and rolled down their windows to be swabbed. Pedestrians stood in line to take the test, with markers to keep them six feet apart.

When it came our turn, we drove up to the swab station. A medical worker asked whether I had a preference for a nostril (I chose the left). Then he took a giant Q-tip and jammed it up there, holding it for 10 seconds.

It was painful. Stinging and mushy at the same time. (Was I actually swabbed in the brain?) After repeating the process for my wife, the worker handed us bar codes that we could later check on Color’s website for the results. We drove off in tears.

While the test was simple, I was still confused about the city’s “Get Tested” website and whether we had done the right thing. I asked the mayor’s office for clarity.

Tyrone Jue, the senior adviser to the mayor who oversaw the Get Tested SF campaign, said my wife and I had inadvertently taken the test. It was meant for essential workers and people with symptoms.

So why say anyone can get tested?

Mr. Jue explained that the city faced a challenge. There are economically disadvantaged groups that are more likely to be exposed, and many avoid getting tested in fear of unemployment. To encourage those people to get tested, the city worked with community organizers to come up with inclusive messaging: Anyone living or working in the city can get tested. (Not just anyone though.)

Since the introduction of this language, test numbers are up, Mr. Jue said. But that’s in part because people who were ineligible for testing — like me, my wife and a dozen of our friends who got the memo — were swabbed. Thankfully, our results were negative.

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California Today is edited by Julie Bloom, who grew up in Los Angeles and graduated from U.C. Berkeley.

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