Nasal swabs joined the scene by Santa Barbara’s waterfront Tuesday as the county’s COVID-19 testing bus parked at 1118 E. Cabrillo Blvd.
It will remain beachside until the end of March.
The bus, wrapped with graphics from California’s COVID-19 awareness campaign, is leased by the Santa Barbara County Public Health Department.
Although it may look like a walk-up clinic, appointments are required.
It has traveled to Lompoc, Carpinteria and Santa Maria after beginning in a CenCal Health parking lot in Santa Barbara.
These buses have hit the road throughout California from Storer, a bus company that thought of the testing bus concept during the pandemic.
Storer, based in Modesto, operates buses for public and private sectors throughout the state. When the pandemic struck, it had to park many of its buses and lay off employees.
Storer’s owners got creative to get the buses back on the road and developed the BusTest Express. When local health departments leased the buses, Storer hired its drivers back and began expanding its workforce.
“Mobile clinics and health outreach services are in high demand in our country; however, a full-service vehicle and operations management package — that includes the ability to rent the vehicle — has never been an industry option until now,” Sarah Storer, co-founder and vice president of BusTest Express, said in a news release.
OptumServe, a health services company contracted by government agencies, partners with Storer to test the samples. Storer provides the bus, drivers and maintenance.
The testing is free, and patients sign up online for a spot. They are given a code that helps them check in quickly when they arrive on site.
Four windows, two on each side of the bus, open with trained technicians inside the bus. Patients step up on a platform outside the window and swab their nose in front of the technician.
It’s a quick process, and patients receive results online in a couple days.
BusTest Express has served agricultural workers, driving up to a farm during the workday, and unhoused populations in other areas.
Santa Barbara County’s bus has been on tour since Jan. 11. As fewer cases are detected, a question comes to mind: What’s next?
Storer is considering providing buses for COVID-19 vaccinations and hopes to expand its mobile healthcare model beyond the pandemic.
“BusTest Express will revolutionize the healthcare industry’s outreach capacity by providing easier access and greater flexibility to healthcare services,” said Donald Storer, co-founder and president of BusTest Express. “These buses are designed for mobility, and can go wherever they’re needed to dramatically increase healthcare capacity in both urban centers and rural areas, along with underserved and hard-to-reach populations.”
Storer began almost 70 years ago to provide public transportation to students with special needs. Its focus on accessibility extends into the future.
To schedule a COVID-19 testing bus appointment, go to lhi.care/covidtesting.