LODI (CBS13) – Cash for COVID tests? That’s the plan San Joaquin county is considering in an effort to change tiers.
The county hasn’t been able to leave California’s most-restrictive purple tier for months. The reason, they’ve learned, is not enough people are being tested.READ MORE: 'Prime Suspect' Paul Flores Arrested In 1996 Disappearance Of Kristin Smart; Still No Remains Found
San Joaquin County supervisor Tom Patti said the goal is to increase their number of COVID tests in the next 30 days, adding 80,000 additional ones. The county hopes to increase from their current 2,400 tests a day to 3,000. To do that, they’re considering rewarding people in exchange for a test.
The idea is welcome news for Brenda Hunter at Weibel Family Winery, eagerly awaiting the day she can bring people indoors at the tasting room again.
“I think I’m going to quickly move the furniture and bring them all in,” Hunter, the tasting room manager said. “We’re just so close.”
San Joaquin County’s testing rate consistently falls below the state median set, so the county’s numbers are rounded up – according to an emergency supervisor meeting called Friday.
At a COVID testing site in Lodi, staff told CBS13 they were once testing hundreds of people a day. But those numbers have dropped to dozens in recent weeks. Tiffany Heyer, a spokesperson with the San Joaquin County Office of Emergency Services, said testing numbers decreased dramatically back in January and never picked up.
“We have to get people testing, and back in that normal routine,” Heyer said.
The county hopes a fair trade would be an incentive program. One way proposed, giving people gift cards when they get their tests. Multiple different ideas have been floated, but one plan suggests $25 gift cards for those who take part.READ MORE: Sacramento Hires Inspector General To Independently Review Police Use Of Force Cases
The proposal could cost San Joaquin County $2 million, but the pay-off could be worth it to some.
“If we can accentuate our local businesses, too, all the better,” said Tom Patti, chairman of the board of supervisors.
A similar incentive program in Kern and Sonoma counties were used during the pandemic. In Sonoma County, it was deemed a success by officials. The program targeted the lower 25% of Sonoma’s area, based on the healthy places index. More than 7,000 gift cards were handed out there.
Lodi locals like Ray Allen, who enjoyed an outdoor meal with his family on Friday, feel it could work. He’s noticed a much more relaxed attitude around town, especially as vaccinations ramp up.
“Everybody’s moving, so maybe I don’t have to?” he said regarding people getting tested. “But no we do, we all have to. This would probably get a lot more people out there to do it.”
At a small COVID testing pop-up, Preeti Lokagariwar had her first test of the entire pandemic, right before getting vaccinated. She’s been isolated since it started, but hopes other locals follow suit.
“If you don’t test – there’s no way of telling what the numbers are,” she said.
At this point, no decision has been made by the county. Discussion was tabled at a Friday board meeting, and expected to pick up the next time the board meets. No word, if it passes, who would be eligible or if there are any limitation set.MORE NEWS: Lack Of Healthy Players Cuts Davis High School Football Season Short
But some positive reinforcement could be the county’s answer, as they hope for more negatives on tests. All in an effort to get their businesses, and people, back on track.