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Coronavirus testing site opening along U.S.-Mexico border

Posted at 5:59 PM, Aug 09, 2020
and last updated 2020-08-09 21:01:11-04

SAN DIEGO (KGTV) - Another testing site is being added to San Diego County, and this one will be the closest to the U.S.-Mexico border so far for the region.

The San Ysidro port of Entry’s PedWest crossing is one of the world’s busiest pedestrian international border crossings. Within the next two weeks, a testing site at that location will join the more than two dozen others across San Diego County. It will be an appointment-free, walk-up site. Officials expect 200 tests to be done daily there.

Chicano Federation Chief Strategy Officer Roberto Alcantar said this is a step in the right direction as far as testing is concerned, but said there is still work to be done to help the Latino community.

Related: San Diego County launches COVID-19 outreach campaign for Latinos

He said many in the Latino community are afraid of getting tests done because of the fear of a positive test.

“Our community is nervous about losing their jobs, not being able to go to work, the real economic impact that comes from being positive and feeling that that might hinder them in a way,” he said.

He added that this is a big-picture problem. The Latino community lacks affordable housing, forcing families to live in close quarters and increasing the risk of spreading the virus, and also forcing people to live across the border to find affordable housing. Many of these people are essential workers and need to continue to work to support their families, so they cross the border on a daily basis. This new site will help give them access to testing.

“They’re having to cross the border every day. We’re hearing from workers that they’re spending 4-5 hours every day waiting just to cross,” said Alcantar.

Alcantar also said that the new testing site will likely lead to more positive rates, as is expected with increased testing, and he worries about what that will do to the perception of the Latino community, which already has higher numbers than the rest.

As of August 9, 62% of San Diego’s cases are Hispanic people, a community that makes up just 34% of the population. That number will likely continue to climb with another testing site in an area dominated by Spanish speakers. This, tied with a perception that people are carrying the virus from Mexico to the U.S., could be bad.

“Our concern is that this will help push further that narrative that we have to have a testing site because the rates are coming from Mexico,” he said.

The Chicano Federation has been working with UCSD to reach out to the Latino community and find out why they don’t want to get tested and also encourage them to get tested. They also have been working with the county and giving feedback on testing in the Latino community.

San Diego County also launched a campaign at the end of July targeted at helping get resources and information to the Latino community about safety measures, testing resources and contact tracing.