COVID-19 testing bus arrives in Tulare County

When COVID-19 took hold of the country nearly one year ago, Modesto-based transportation company Storer had to hit the brakes on its coach services.

"Our phone was ringing off the hook of cancellations for tours and field trips, school field trips," Sarah Storer said. "Every kind of bus trip you could possibly imagine was canceled when the pandemic hit."

The company had layoffs, and its huge fleet of motor coaches sat stored away.

Seeing a need to adapt and also aware of the high demand for COVID-19 testing, Storer started repurposing some of its buses for mobile testing services.

BusTest Express now has 11 testing buses in 13 California counties, including Fresno and Tulare. Each has WiFi, bathrooms, and has the ability to do 500 tests per day.

"What's amazing is that the vehicle has everything contained within it to have a successful site," said Storer, vice president and co-founder of BusTest Express. "The counties don't have to worry about finding the electricity, finding the spot, and then you know, a week later, finding another spot that's going to be ok to have all of those amenities and utilities."

Storer says their leasing package includes maintenance and a driver, which has allowed the company to bring some of its workers back.

RELATED: Central California COVID-19 vaccines: How to make an appointment, latest information by county

On Monday afternoon, David Reimer showed up at Visalia's Neighborhood Church for his weekly COVID test.

He did not know he would be getting it through a bus window.

"It's funny they stick just a little window in there," Reimer said. "I don't know what people do at different heights-I hope it works for everybody. But it worked for me."

In the past, Reimer has received tests at indoor sites throughout the county.n He told us he prefers this option over those.

"They try to make it as safe as they can, with keeping doors open and fans running, but this is better," he said. "I like this a lot."

The state says each of the buses have a minimum time commitment of three months.

"There is no cost to the counties as they are leased via a state contract with OptumServe," California Department of Public Health Officials said.

Tulare County Health and Human Services can decide where the bus goes and when.

It's only being used for testing right now, but the company says it's planning to adapt its testing model for COVID-19 vaccinations.

For more information about scheduling an appointment, visit their website.
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