Testing for COVID in the Neighborhood

By Sam Wilson

Drive up Covid-19 testing by Dr. Kat onsit at Oasis of Change. Photo credit Sam Wilson

Matt Thrasher woke up one morning in early June feeling ill. He suspected food poisoning and called his boss at a bathroom surface refinishing company, where he works as a technician. The company relayed the message to Thrasher’s customer for the day, for whom he was tasked with detailing a tub and shower he had begun the day prior. Out of an abundance of caution, the clients asked that he get tested for COVID-19 before doing the work. His boss agreed, which is how he wound up parallel parked in his company truck on the 2000 block of North Williams Avenue, swirling a non-cotton swab around each of his nostrils.

Thrasher had been referred to Dr. Kat Lopez Sankey, 37, who runs a private member practice office in the basement of Oasis of Change, a community center on North Williams Avenue. Lopez began offering drive-up COVID-19 tests in early April, soon after the FDA began allowing the less invasive nasal swabs for sample collection, and still when the flatness of our curves was yet to be known. She anticipated a large demand for people looking for answers and planned on hiring employees to assist with the rush. She ordered a sign to be printed offering the service for $150, a price she settled on after weighing the many unknown factors. But the rush never came. 

Sankey began her private practice a year ago, distraught by the “insurance-industrial complex” after five years in an integrative medicine clinic. Her clients now pay $100 a month for “unlimited access” via office visits, emails, phone calls, or texts. The membership fee is out of pocket, although some insurance companies refund the cost. Her clients visit from around the Portland area, ranging from families to the elderly, but all have come by way of word of mouth. “My type of medicine doesn’t actually work very well in an insurance model,” she notes. “It’s not lucrative to spend a long thoughtful time with people with multiple follow-up calls and being accessible to them all the time. None of that is reimbursed by insurance.” 

When the coronavirus began keeping people indoors, Lopez saw less of her patients but also heard from them less as well. “I initially thought that because of the pandemic, there would be more sick people and I would be useful,” she said. “But instead, society just kind of shut down.”

It was surprising, too, that more people were not trying to get tested. Since she started offering them, Lopez has administered 13 drive-in tests to the public, all of which have been negative, and believes mixed messages have discouraged more people from getting tests. “I think there was a misunderstanding of how many swabs and tubes existed, and there was a mindset of conservation for those who were important and it was hard to know how inundated we would be,” she said. “An asymptomatic person with no exposures who’s not a healthcare worker still can’t get tested. Anywhere. Except for me or if their doctor wants to do it.” Lopez also acknowledged a Walgreens in Hillsboro began testing asymptomatic people with no exposures in late May.

As labs have become more streamlined with COVID-19 testing, Lopez has smoothed her process as well. She has settled on using LabCorp to process the tests she administers. They charge $52 per test, usually picking up the swabs within a half-hour of the sample being collected, and their results come in a few days at most. As such, Lopez has been steadily lowering her price, although the sign she had ordered at the beginning of April had only recently arrived.

As she sat in the sunny garden adjacent to Oasis of Change in early June, Lopez reflected that she should be doing the test for free, with insurance. Without insurance, the LabCorp fee would still need to be covered by the person getting tested. She had, after all, an abundance of swabs and sterile tubes, just waiting for samples. “It’s very rewarding. People are really emotional about it,” Lopez said of the peace of mind she sees when someone does a test. 

For Matt Thrasher, it was a simple process he was more than glad to do. “Look, we’re going through a pandemic. I feel like more people should get this done,” he said. Three days after Thrasher handed his swab to Lopez from his truck window, he got an email with his results. Negative.

To schedule a test with Dr. Kat Lopez Sankey, visit covidtestpdx.com.

Dr. Kat Lopez Sankey who offers Covid-19 testing at Oasis of Change. Photo credit Sam Wilson

Oasis of Change- Response to Coronavirus

By Dov Judd

I hope everyone is staying safe and finding constructive ways to keep occupied and connect with those around you. We at Oasis of Change miss seeing everyone around especially as the spring is starting and the farm is coming to life. Eating meals on the farm with no community around is just not the same.

Some welcome relief from staying at home – planting starwberries at Oasis of Change. Photo credit Dov Judd

We have been thinking hard about how we can help the community in this time and so far we have come up with a couple special ideas. We have been so saddened to see how empty it has gotten and our mission is to create community so we are going to try to start inviting people back in safe ways. We are opening up our garden and farm space to the public as a community coffee and tea hangout. We have partnered with Karma Cup, a really amazing organization who is working to end homelessness.  We have so much beautiful outdoor space we might as well share it and the benefit of being outdoors is that the sun actually disinfects! 

We just finished re-doing the garden space to allow us to have all the distance we need. We can accommodate up to 6 people per group and we have 10 private outdoor seating spaces all separated by a beautiful farm. So, come relax and see everything coming to life and feel some normalcy in this time. It is recommended that you call ahead to reserve. We are also opening up our outdoor gym and trampoline to families and individuals who miss working out all you have to do is reach out and book a 30 minute to hour time slot. So if you’re feeling stuck and want a little breath of normalcy in your life come out and have a cup of coffee.

1. We launched Oasis of Change online which will hopefully give you something to laugh at and you might even learn some cooking tips.  The link is https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCp_2HabSRwCzlvnThpsKwzQ/ please feel free to share. 

2. Dr. Kat is opening up a covid-19 drive through no contact testing program here. The link to more information and to sign up is http://www.drkatlopez.com/covidtestpdx

3. We are keeping the farm space semi-open as we can all keep distance and get our hands in the dirt. Contact us directly if you would like to get dirty with us, 301-467-8441

New Covid-19 Testing Site through One Medical

One Medical, a nationwide healthcare provider, has opened a new location at 4141 N Williams (Skidmore and Williams). Their unique style of healthcare offers a membership model and a virtual medical team you can reach by phone or video 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

One Medical is offering 30 days free from membership fees (normally $199 per year) during this Covid-19 crisis so that residents can get testing if needed. They have a testing site in the parking lot of Vancouver Baptist Church. If you are experiencing symptoms of coronavirus you can get tested at this site after making an appointment through the medical facility.

In addition to the services listed above, One Medical helps to mitigate copays by offering information in the “Treat Me Now” section of the website for colds, allergies, UTI, etc.

Call 503-342-2520 for more information and appointments or visit onemedical.com.