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Dockworkers Get More Testing as Union Tracks COVID-19

LONG BEACH, Calif. — Long Beach is adding more COVID-19 testing for port workers.

Ramon Ponce de Leon, president of the International Longshore and Warehouse Union Local 13, was part of the team that requested a new testing site.

What You Need To Know
The new testing site is located at 2100 West Anaheim Street in Long Beach

Port-related personnel can register on site, while everyone else must make an appointment

Union leaders meet weekly to track COVID-19 among dockworkers

There have been spikes in cases right after both holidays and the recent protests

Ponce de Leon has worked at the ports for almost four decades, just like his father and his grandfather. None of them experienced a situation like this. “There’s no blueprint to a pandemic,” he said. “Nobody knows what’s in the future. Nobody knows how to proceed.”

Every week, Ponce de Leon meets with employers and other union heads. Their goal is to keep workers safe and track the spread of COVID-19.

“We’re essential workers, so getting to work is a necessity and being safe is a necessity, and that fine line between the two sometimes is a degree of difficulty,” he said.

Ponce de Leon and others constantly update a master spreadsheet, with every line representing either a dockworker with a positive COVID-19 test or someone who was exposed to the virus. The first exposure is dated March 16 and by now the log is ten pages long.

Ponce de Leon said they average five to ten log entries per week, but there are spikes especially right after holidays and the recent protests. There have also been several clusters where three or more physically close workers are exposed or get sick simultaneously.

This data pushed Ponce de Leon to ask for help. “We felt the need to ask the ports because there was nothing available to us here,” he said.

The Port of Long Beach’s Executive Director Mario Cordero helped get the funding for 200 free tests daily at the city’s sixth testing site. With the addition of this Harbor District site, the city of Long Beach has the capacity to conduct 1,600 COVID-19 tests each day.

Port-related personnel can register on site, while everyone else must make an appointment.

The new site is at 2100 West Anaheim Street in Long Beach.

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