Long Beach’s COVID-19 Rapid Assessment Clinic Led Innovation Early in Pandemic and Continues to Provide Testing, Vaccination Services
As part of its sweeping efforts to manage the COVID-19 crisis, the City of Long Beach established a Rapid Assessment Clinic (RAC) in April of 2020 at the Long Beach City College (LBCC) Pacific Coast Campus. The highly qualified staff at the RAC was able to diagnose and treat patients with non-COVID illnesses, saving beds needed by local hospital emergency rooms, which, during the height of the pandemic, were filled beyond capacity.
"During unprecedented times where the public was fearful of seeking Emergency Room care, the RAC was open," said Alice Castellanos, Community Liaison Supervisor for the Long Beach Health Department. "It was available for acute care and also medical advice. It served as a valuable resource for central Long Beach, and continues to do so today. We anticipate that RAC will be providing services through the end of 2021."
Although the RAC has now transitioned into a mobile outreach program, its services are still available at LBCC, where one of three RAC vans will be parked Monday through Friday, 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Community members can get COVID-19 testing, vaccinations, and referrals there, as well as public education and outreach services.
The RAC has assessed and treated almost 24,000 patients since last April and has administered more than 3,500 walk-up COVID-19 tests. Diligent work by Long Beach's Public Health Emergency Management team has facilitated the RAC's transition and enabled its work to continue; In addition to the LBCC Clinic, the mobile RAC also visits residences, assisted living centers, and other group facilities.
Last spring, when the COVID-19 pandemic was escalating, many doctors temporarily closed their offices. The Long Beach Health Department responded quickly, creating the RAC and calling upon public health experts such as Dr. Mirwais Mohammad, who had signed up to volunteer with Long Beach's Medical Reserve Corps.
"Long Beach has been at the forefront of public health during the COVID-19 crisis," said Dr. Mohammad. "We were one of the first in creating a space for people to get tested with rapid results, while also having doctors on-site to assess and treat patients with common illnesses. The New York Times wrote an article with the headline, 'Why Long Beach is a Model for the Vaccine Rollout,' which shows that we are at the forefront of public health for all of America."
In light of recent increases in COVID-19 positivity rates, Dr. Mohammad stressed the importance of remaining vigilant about COVID-19, and encouraged hesitant community members to get vaccinated.
"The Clinic at LBCC functions now as a vaccination and testing site,” explained Dr. Mohammad. “Right now, there is a need for everyone who is eligible to be vaccinated. We offer all three vaccines [Moderna, Pfizer, and Janssen] for patients who need to get their first or second dose. We also educate our patients on the importance of vaccines, side effects, and any other questions they may have. Moreover, our COVID-19 testing services are still available for anyone who needs it."
Dr. Mohammad is just one of the many health workers who manifest the can-do spirit that has helped place Long Beach at the forefront of effective COVID-19 response. Tammy Garcia, a Certified Nursing Assistant employed by the City, has been contributing since March of 2021, when she volunteered at the Mass Vaccination Clinic at the Long Beach Convention Center.
"We've seen an increase in testing since the new mandates were put in place," said Garcia. "People are more worried. When we open in the morning, there is already a big line of people waiting. But the RAC makes it easy. People get their test results within one day, and they can get vaccinated right there at LBCC, where a vaccination clinic is located adjacent to the RAC."
In the afternoon, Garcia does community outreach, going door-to-door visiting businesses and handing out flyers so customers can learn about the RAC. "We walk around everywhere, including communities besides Long Beach," she said. "Thank God these businesses have been agreeable. It's an easy way to inform as many people as possible."
For the latest COVID-19 statistics and information on current health orders, testing, and vaccinations, please visit the Long Beach Health Department's COVID-19 information page.