California expands access to COVID-19 testing to help communities open safely

A health provider issues a nasal swap test for COVID-19.

Since people can transmit COVID-19 without even knowing it, testing people with and without symptoms is an important part of California’s pandemic control strategy.

“COVID-19 testing is critical to ensure prompt diagnosis, treatment and isolation to protect others,” said Heather Riden, program director of the Western Center for Agricultural Health and Safety at the University of California, Davis. “It’s especially important to regularly test people who work in close proximity to others or indoors for long periods of time.”

Offering COVID-19 testing to exposed workers is also a requirement of the Cal/OSHA COVID-19 Prevention Emergency Temporary Standard. To make COVID-19 testing easier, employers, schools and community groups can team up with the California Department of Public Health Valencia Branch Laboratory, a new lab designed to increase the state’s testing capacity and reduce turnaround time with little or no cost to local groups.  

To help set up local testing programs, the state will provide test kits, test registration software, test processing and technical assistance. Employers and community groups provide the physical space for testing, outreach to participants and staff to handle on-site logistics.

The state recommends weekly testing for essential workers who spend a lot of time with the public, such as people who work in health care, public safety, agriculture, food service, retail, transportation and education. Regular testing won’t disrupt work flow. If employees are not showing symptoms, they don’t have to stay home while awaiting results.

Like other community testing sites, this partnership program can offer a reliable and efficient option to employers who need to meet the Cal/OSHA requirement to offer testing when workers may have been exposed to COVID-19 while at work.

“Testing is not a substitute for wearing a mask, quarantining when you’ve been exposed to someone with COVID and maintaining physical distance from others,” said Riden. “But it’s an important component of assuring public safety. Additional testing capacity will allow employers and community groups to better serve farmworkers and other essential workers.”

Learn more about COVID testing resources by visiting the Valencia Branch Lab website, reviewing the process, or submitting an interest form. You may also address questions to the California Testing Taskforce at


Media contact(s)

Diane Nelson, UC Davis College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences, 209-480-7445,

Heather Riden, UC Davis Western Center for Agricultural Health and Safety,

Alexi Haack, California Department of Food and Agriculture,