San Diego County

Is It Safe to Wait for Hours in COVID-Testing Lines?

The lines, of course, are often full of people there to get tested because they're showing symptoms of the coronavirus

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COVID-19 testing lines are stretching for blocks in some cases, and many San Diegans fear they can contract the virus while waiting to be tested.

The lines have gotten longer and appointments to get a test are harder to come by since the recent spike in cases fueled by the omicron variant.

“I’ve been on line for at least an hour and a half,” San Diegan Arianna Segura told NBC on Friday as she waited in City Heights.

Some Diegans are concerned about if they could contract the virus while they wait in the long lines.

“I’ve been here for several hours, and the line doesn’t show any sign of speeding up, so it’s just a really big concern for me and my family,” Daisy Ponsot said.

Some San Diegans NBC7 spoke with, though, aren’t concerned.

“I don’t feel too exposed or any more exposed than I would, say, going to the grocery store or going to get gas even,” Segura said.  

According to public health specialists, it's hard to know the precise amount of risk being incurred while waiting in a COVID-19 testing line.  

“We don't know exactly what that risk would be, but we can imagine that there will be quite a few of those people in line with other people who have omicron COVID, but there's just tons of the virus floating out in San Diego at the moment,” said Dr. Davey Smith, UC San Diego's chief of infectious diseases.

Despite the concerns of some who are anxious about being in a long COVID-19 testing line, Smith stressed the importance of testing.

There are some safety tips to keep in mind while in such a line, or, for that matter, any large gathering.

“Wear a good mask," Smith said. "It's not just the cloth masks. So, to be as safe as possible in those situations, we want people to get tested, of course. So, to have people as safe as possible, wear those surgical masks, if you got them, get the KN95 if you have access to them. If you have an N95, even better.”

Some people, of course, would prefer at-home testing, which they feel is safer than going to a testing site. However, for most, that's just not an option right now.

“I’ve been going to several CVS’s, and all of them are out of tests, so no place can really sell you a test, so this is really the only option you have left,” Ponsot said, referring to the testing site in City Heights.  

In an effort to meet rising demand, more testing sites are planned for rollout by San Diego County and private organizations as well.

A list of San Diego County operated testing sites can be found here.

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