PALM SPRINGS – The first of 10,000 rapid COVID-19 antibody tests the Desert Healthcare District and Foundation paid for are being put to use at 10 sites that opened recently across the Coachella Valley.

The tests are free and available to all. The antibody test requires a small blood sample and produces results in about 10 minutes. The test checks for a type of antibody called immunoglobulin G (IgG) that is the result of past exposure to COVID-19, also known as the novel coronavirus. The human body produces IgG antibodies as part of the immune response to the virus. It usually takes about 10 to 18 days to produce enough antibodies to be detected in the blood. Experts believe that people who have recovered from the virus have some protection in the short term, but the long-term reinfection risk is still unknown.

“This is a very important tool for helping us better establish the real rate of infection in the community and determine who might be able to return to work safely when the economy reopens,” Dr. Conrado Bárzaga, CEO of Desert Healthcare District, said in a prepared statement. “From a public health perspective, the findings will also help the District develop plans for dealing with COVID-19 over the coming months, particularly as it relates to the 80,000 people in the valley who don’t have medical insurance.”

The District’s Board of Directors approved allocating $350,000 for the rapid antibody tests at a special meeting on April 3.

The three federally qualified health centers that are conducting the tests – Borrego Health, Desert AIDS Project and Clinicas de Salud del Pueblo – ran internal validation studies of the tests and confirmed their accuracy.

“This test does not replace the current nasal/oral swabs we are still doing to detect symptomatic contagious patients, but if you were sick with a COVID-like illness earlier in the season and did not get tested, this could confirm if it was COVID-19,” said Dr. Christopher Foltz, an infectious disease physician at Desert AIDS Project in Palm Springs.

Information about the tests is available on the District’s Coachella Valley COVID-19 Resource Center page at, which offers resources to help people cope with the impacts of the virus. Information on the site is in English, Spanish and Purépecha, the language of indigenous people originally from the Mexican state of Michoacán who make up a large part of the farm-working community in the eastern Coachella Valley.

Since March 24, the District Board has approved $1.2 million in funding for community programs to help Coachella Valley residents in response to COVID-19. The funding includes $450,000 in COVID-19 operating support for the valley’s three federal qualified health centers.

New COVID-19 rapid antibody testing sites:

Eastern Coachella Valley

• Borrego Health, City of Coachella, Twentynine Palms Band of Mission Indians, Desert Healthcare District, Riverside County, 85365 Dillon Road in Coachella, just west of SR 86, south of Spotlight 29 Casino; (833) 624-1097
By appointment 7 a.m. to 11 a.m. Fridays and Saturdays

• Centro Medico Oasis, 88775 76 Avenue, Suite 1, Thermal; 760-397-2501
Drive-up and on-site testing 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday-Friday

• Centro Medico Coachella, 55497 Van Buren St., Thermal; 760-399-4526
Drive-up testing 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday-Friday; on-site testing 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday-Friday

• Martha’s Village Clinic, 83791 Date Ave., Indio; 760-391-6000
Drive-up testing 9 a.m. to 11 a.m. Tuesday/Thursday; on-site testing 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday/Wednesday/Friday (closed noon to 1 p.m.)

• Clinicas de Salud del Pueblo, 50249 Cesar Chavez Street, Unit K, Coachella; 760-393-0555
Clinic testing by appointment 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday-Friday

• Clinicas de Salud del Pueblo, 91275 66th Avenue, Suite 500, Mecca; 760-396-1249
Clinic testing by appointment 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday-Friday

Western Coachella Valley

• Centro Medico, 69175 Ramon Road, Bldg. A, Cathedral City; 760-321-6776
Drive-up testing 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday-Friday

• Desert Hot Springs Community Health Center, 66675 Pierson Blvd., Desert Hot Springs; 760-676-5240
Drive-up and on-site testing 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday-Friday

• Stonewall Medical Center, 68555 Ramon Road, Cathedral City; 760-507-3310
Drive up testing, 9 a.m. to 11 a.m. Tuesday/Thursday

• Desert AIDS Project, 1695 N. Sunrise Way, Palm Springs; 760-992-0407
On-site testing by appointment 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday-Friday

Image Sources

  • Antibody tests: Shutterstock