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Wealthy village in California testing all residents for coronavirus

 

A small, wealthy northern California town is testing every resident for novel coronavirus using venture capital funding.

The town of Bolinas in Marin County has no confirmed cases as of Sunday but about half of residents are older than 60, the Mercury News reports. Town officials are partnering with the University of California San Francisco and local volunteers to implement four days of drive-through testing with the university set to return results within 72 hours.

UCSF plans to launch a similar efforts in San Francisco’s Mission District, about an hour south, this week, with UC Berkeley launching an effort to test 5,000 people in the Bay Area, but the initiative in the wealthy town at a time when numerous people nationwide have no access to testing at all has raised some eyebrows.

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Diane Havlir, a UCSF infectious disease specialist leading the testing effort, defended the choice, telling the newspaper “Why not Bolinas? It’s a terrific place. A community expressed the motivation and willpower to partner with the scientific community and policymakers to get this information.”

“Wealthy people? Whatever. It’s a motivated community,” she added.

Some residents have also expressed skepticism at the purchase of local properties by tech executives, including the founders of Flickr and Zynga games and a biotech entrepreneur, which they say has driven up rents and housing prices.

“The town is being used as an experiment,” Michele McSkye, 77, told the newspaper. “We’re kind of losing our rights.”

Others have welcomed the effort, including Penny Hamilton, 71, who has lost her income as a massage therapist since the state imposed social-distancing measures.

“This is something we’re all really grateful for, to have them come in and help us in this moment,” Hamilton told the outlet. “It’s the answer to my prayers. I feel I can function in the world if I know my status. The fact that the whole community is going to do this will give us a sense of calm.”