COVID 2022

I think I might need a COVID-19 test. Now what?

COVID-19 testing in Santa Cruz County in November 2020.
(Kevin Painchaud / Lookout Santa Cruz)

Santa Cruz County has more than a dozen COVID-19 testing sites, each with different procedures. A new site opens Dec. 21. Here’s everything you need to know.


COVID-19 testing sites in Santa Cruz fall into one of several categories: the state-operated site at Ramsay Park in Watsonville and a second state site that opens on Dec. 21 at Civic Auditorium in Santa Cruz; county-operated “safety net” clinics such as Salud Para La Gente, which serve mostly uninsured and Medi-Cal patients; commercial operations like CVS pharmacies; and private health care providers, including Kaiser Permanente, Dignity Health, and Palo Alto Medical Foundation.

The following outlines the information we’ve been able to compile on these centers, as well as questions you should ask yourself before deciding which one to call. Let us know if there remain unanswered questions, and we’ll try to fill those gaps. Send questions to


What are the symptoms of the virus?

Use the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s coronavirus self-checker to screen yourself for COVID-19 symptoms.

Symptoms of COVID-19 can appear up to 14 days after first exposure, but many patients experience no symptoms at all. They can include fever or chills, cough, shortness of breath or difficulty breathing, fatigue, muscle or body aches, headache, new loss of taste or smell, sore throat, congestion or runny nose, nausea or vomiting, and/or diarrhea.

Presented by UC Santa Cruz

The University Library at UC Santa Cruz recently announced the online publication of the Santa Cruz County Historic...


When should I quarantine or self-isolate?

If you came into close contact with someone who tested positive for COVID-19, the CDC recommends quarantining for 14 days after the last contact and monitoring your symptoms. This rule doesn’t apply to most people who had COVID-19 within the previous three months.

If you are infected with COVID-19, the CDC recommends you stay home and isolate yourself for 10 days or until it’s safe, in order to prevent the spread of the virus.

With some small-town triumphs — including help from some UC Santa Cruz scientists — and some frustrating roadblocks,...


What are the requirements to get tested in Santa Cruz County if . . .

I don’t have symptoms but was exposed: Per federal law, if you’ve been exposed to someone who tested positive for COVID-19, you can get tested anywhere and your health insurance must cover it.

I’m an essential worker: Under federal law, COVID-19 testing for essential workers must be covered by your health plan, but you have to talk to your health plan provider before getting tested.

LOOKOUT EXCLUSIVE: Gail Newel discusses how the virus is spreading, school reopening plans, testing, “COVID fatigue” and...


What types of tests are available in Santa Cruz County?

The most common type of test is the PCR diagnostic test, which collects any genetic material using a nasal swab. Some sites in Santa Cruz County also offer rapid tests, which can deliver results in 15 minutes.

You also can order home tests, but experts caution that might not be safe.


If I have insurance:

Call your doctor. All of the major health systems and private providers in Santa Cruz County offer testing for registered patients and members:


If I don’t have insurance:

If you are uninsured, the government covers the cost of necessary COVID-19 testing and treatment. In addition, Medi-Cal covers COVID-19 diagnosis, testing and treatment for people whose insurance won’t cover it, regardless of immigration status.

If you don’t have a primary care physician, you can also call Medi-Cal’s free, 24-hour nurse advice hotline at 877-409-9052 to speak to a healthcare professional about your symptoms, testing or treatment options, or how to apply for health insurance.

There are multiple sites in Santa Cruz County that offer testing to those without insurance or primary care, including locations that offer testing to asymptomatic people. Here’s the rundown of all sites:


Testing centers in Santa Cruz County


Facilities open to the general public

CVS Health (two locations)

Capitola: 1750 41st Ave.

Watsonville: 490 Rodriguez St.

To make an appointment, register in advance at and schedule an appointment. A physician’s referral is not needed. Testing is available for all patients, regardless of insurance coverage or symptoms. Children ages 10 and up are eligible for tests, but children ages 15 and younger must be accompanied by a parent or guardian.

CVS offers self-administered PCR tests, and results are typically available within four days. Results may take longer due to a surge in COVID-19 testing during the holidays. Test results will be shared through the patient portal used for registration and, secondarily, via a phone call or certified mail.

Cost: It varies. The test is free for patients (insured or uninsured) who meet CDC testing criteria, meaning they have COVID-19 symptoms, were exposed to a person with COVID-19 or for whom a COVID-19 test is a medical necessity. For those who must show a negative COVID-19 test result for travel, recreation or leisure, the tests cost $139 each and must be paid for at the time of service. Insurance is typically not accepted for voluntary testing.

Salud Para La Gente

204 East Beach St., Watsonville

To make an appointment: Call 831-728-0222 to do a symptom screening over the phone, after which a clinician will recommend either drive-thru testing or an in-person, outdoors consultation with the respiratory clinic.

Hours: Curbside testing is available at this site from 8:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Monday to Friday. Appointments with the outside respiratory clinic are available from 8:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Monday to Saturday, and from 8:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. on Sunday.

Testing and results: Depending on a patient’s symptoms, this site may recommend 1) drive-thru testing: for those without symptoms, or who are experiencing mild body aches and/or chills, or 2) an appointment with the respiratory clinic: for those who have cough, fever or both.

Turnaround time for COVID-19 test results is two to seven days.

Cost: This testing site has a program to help uninsured patients pay for a test, and has a sliding scale fee for patients who bring a pay stub with proof of their income.

OptumServe at Ramsay Park Family Center and the Santa Cruz Civic Auditorium

Ramsay Park
1301 Main St., Watsonville

To make an appointment: Visit or call 888-634-1123. Eligibility for tests is determined during registration online or by phone.

Hours: Every day, 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.

Santa Cruz Civic Auditorium
307 Church St, Santa Cruz, CA 95060
(831) 420-5260

To make an appointment: Visit or call 888-634-1123. Eligibility for tests is determined during registration online or by phone.

Hours: Monday to Friday, 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.

Testing and results: Both sites offer nasal swab tests for active COVID-19 virus, not antibody or serology tests. Testing is available for children. As of Nov. 12, lab results can take up to a week to come back, and will be sent to patients via the secure online portal or by text or email.

Cost: Uninsured patients can receive a test for free at both sites. If you do have health insurance, OptumServe will bill your provider.

Senneca Diagnostics at Cabrillo College (Aptos)

Cabrillo College Parking Lot K, 6500 Soquel Drive, Aptos

To make an appointment: Visit the Senneca Dx Portal ( to complete a screening survey and make an appointment. This testing site accepts patients based on their exposure to COVID-19, broadly defined, not their symptoms.

The Twin Lakes site offers a self-administered nasal swab diagnostic test. Turnaround time is between 48 and 72 hours, and results are shared in the patient portal used to register for the test.

Tests are available on Monday to Thursday, from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Cost: This testing site is free.

Westside Pharmacy & Gifts

1401 Mission St., Santa Cruz

To make an appointment: This site requires appointments, which can only be scheduled online, at If you enter your ZIP code and get a message saying, “There are no locations in your area with tests currently available,” that means all testing slots are full. Check back daily. This testing site requires patients to bring a printed test voucher to the appointment.

Hours: Mondays and Wednesdays from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

Testing and results: This site offers self-administered nasal swab test. Results will be communicated via email three to five business days after the test.

Cost: This site offers free testing for eligible patients. To see if you are eligible for a free test, visit and register.


Locations for patients registered with health systems

County health centers (two locations)

Santa Cruz: 1080 Emeline Ave.

Watsonville: 1430 Freedom Blvd., Suite D

Testing at the Watsonville and Santa Cruz county health centers is only available for registered patients, most of whom are on Medi-Cal, Medicare or are uninsured. To make an appointment, call your clinic’s main line.

After a phone screening, the clinician will schedule a drive-thru swab test or, in some cases, an in-person appointment (for more serious symptoms).

Test results are typically available within 72 hours, and will be communicated via phone call and online patient portal. This testing site highly recommends that anyone tested self-isolate until they receive a negative test result.

Cost: Varies for self-pay customers. This site has sliding scale pricing that’s determined based on a patient’s ability to pay.

Doctors on Duty (multiple locations)

Aptos: 6800 Soquel Drive

Santa Cruz: 615 Ocean St.

Watsonville: 1505 Main St.

To make an appointment: Call the testing site’s main line or visit to schedule a telemedicine consultation. A physician will screen you for symptoms and decide whether or not you should have a COVID-19 test. New Doctors on Duty patients are required to register — have photo ID, insurance cards and contact information on hand — before the appointment.

This testing site offers rapid testing (results in 15 to 20 minutes) and standard PCR testing, for which results take three to five business days. Patients will receive a phone call with test results.

Cost: $314+ (out-of-pocket) for consultation and test; varies based on health insurance coverage.

Kaiser Permanente (two locations)

Scotts Valley: 5615 Scotts Valley Drive

Watsonville: 1931 Main St.

Kaiser Permanente offers free diagnostic COVID-19 testing to members under its health plan. Kaiser patients can make an appointment by calling their primary care physician or by visiting

Sutter Health/PAMF (two locations)

Santa Cruz: 2025 Soquel Ave.

Watsonville: 550 S. Green Valley Road

Testing here is mainly for patients who’ve been exposed to a positive case or those exhibiting clear symptoms. To schedule an initial telemedicine consultation, call Sutter Health’s COVID-19 hotline, at 831-458-5853. Patients with more serious symptoms, such as shortness of breath and chest pain, may be scheduled for an in-person visit.

You can also call or message your primary doctor directly on Sutter’s My Health portal. If you don’t have a My Health account, you can enroll online.

If you’re unable to have a video consultation, your doctor can instruct you on how to get an in-person evaluation. If you meet testing criteria, your doctor or a clinician will order a test and refer you to a testing site. Tests are ordered for asymptomatic patients on a case by case basis, after evaluation.

Testing: Sutter Health administers PCR tests with a nose or throat swab. Most test results are available within 48 hours, but can take up to 10 business days. If you test positive, you will get a phone call. All test results are posted in an online patient portal.

Cost: Sutter will not charge registered patients ahead of time for “medically necessary” COVID-19 screening at its facilities. Patients are advised to call their health insurance provider to make sure tests are covered before making an appointment.

Dignity Health-Dominican

610 Frederick St., Santa Cruz

To make an appointment: If you’re a Dignity Health patient, schedule an appointment with your primary care provider or visit

Patients must have a Dignity physician’s consultation and referral to get tested at the Frederick Street drive-thru. Drive-up visits are done Monday through Friday, 9:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. and 1:30 p.m. to 4:30 p.m. Appointments are not needed.

This testing site administers an Abbott rapid test and a standard PCR test. Rapid test results are available to patients in 15 minutes, and PCR results — used to confirm the rapid test result — are available within 24 to 48 hours.

Planned Parenthood of Mar Monte (two locations)

Watsonville: 398 S. Green Valley Road

Santa Cruz: 1119 Pacific Ave., Suite 200

To make an appointment: Call 877-855-7526. COVID-19 testing at Planned Parenthood health centers is only available by appointment to primary care members at the Watsonville and Santa Cruz locations.

The turnaround time for PCR tests at these sites is three to five days.

Cost: All primary care member patients are covered under their Health Plan benefits or under Presumptive Eligibility (PE). Patients should not incur any cost if the testing is covered by their Health Plans or under PE.

Another option: Planned Parenthood Mar Monte is offering free drive-thru testing in Monterey (Parking Lot C: 980 Fremont St., Monterey) on a first-come, first-served basis. Testing is open to all, whether or not they have symptoms or health insurance. Photo ID required. Results take three to five days, as of Nov. 13.

Santa Cruz Community Health Centers

21507 East Cliff Drive, Santa Cruz

SCCHC provides basic PCR testing and has results available within 24 to 48 hours.

This testing site has limited appointments due to staffing and financial constraints, so some patients will be referred to other testing locations in Santa Cruz County. Those with primary care physicians and private medical coverage should seek testing with their provider.

This testing site prioritizes SCCHC patients who have COVID-19 symptoms.

Patients reporting a recent close contact with someone who tested positive for COVID-19, patients who lost housing due to the fires or who are moving to congregate housing are a higher testing priority than SCCHC patients without symptoms or exposure to COVID-19.

Those who are not SCCHC patients but have COVID-19 symptoms or have had a COVID-19 exposure can call 831-427-3500 and a service representative will gather their information to determine if they are able to make a testing appointment.

Patients who can’t be tested at SCCHC or at another health care provider will be referred to free testing sites at Ramsay Park, Westside Pharmacy and CVS Health.

Cost: SCCHC does not charge anyone for the COVID-19 test. If a patient has health insurance, this provider will bill their insurance. If a patient does not have coverage, SCCHC will see if they qualify for COVID-19 coverage under Medi-Cal.