When Jona Jane Tajonera lost her older sister Gina to Covid-19 in April 2020, just a month after the first coronavirus surge in the U.S., she decided to dedicate the rest of her life to making sure everyone else around her is protected from the killer virus.
A public health doctor, Tajonera then set up her very first free Covid testing site by May 2020 in New York City through her company called U.S. Mobile Care Group.
"I turned the bad thing that happened in 2020 for me, I turned it into a good thing," Tajonera notes. "I don't want to think about what happened, you know, I just wanna keep busy. So I started doing this."
From just one outdoor tent site in 2020, Tajonera now has 22 Covid testing sites with four vans that serve as their office and storage. Powered by mostly Filipino nurses and staff, her team administers about 400 patient swabs for both rapid and PCR tests a day. At times, they are able to test more than 500 individuals.
"At 7:00 am andito na yang mga yan, kahit gabi na sila umuwi, tapos go lang sila nang go. Kahit pagod ako, papasok ako kasi ang sipag nila. Nakakatuwa (At 7:00am, they're already here even though they go home late, they still continue. So even if I'm tired, I will go to work because they are hardworking. It makes me happy)," Tajonera says of her staff.
In May of last year, she almost shutdown operations as business was slow because Covid infections were at an all time low due to increased vaccinations. However, the Delta and Omicron variants brought her testing sites back to business.
As herd immunity seems to be on the horizon, Tajonera says her pandemic business is ready to evolve into the next level of care for Covid patients: a mobile urgent care van that will serve those who developed long term Covid effects such as cardiopulmonary illnesses.
"So in my team, I have a GI doctor, I have cardiology, I have pain management. I have all those specialists and most importantly, I have mental health counselor. So we're gonna do a lot of telemedicine to follow up on them."
For now, Tajonera says effective testing is the only way health authorities and government leaders can make scientific and evidence-based decisions to slow the spread of the coronavirus until herd immunity is reached.