Post-Holiday Blitz on Testing Sites As San Diego COVID Cases, Hospitalizations Surge

Monday evening, county officials said 8,313 new positive cases were reported, and 116 new patients hospitalized. However, only a single ICU patient had been added to the county's total

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As the number of San Diego County COVID-19 cases and hospitalization surge, there is now a post-holiday blitz on free testing sites across the county, with hundreds of people are waiting hours in line to get tested.

Early on Monday evening, county officials reported that 8,313 new positive cases had been reported, and 116 new patients had been hospitalized for the coronavirus. However, in that same report, authorities also said that only a single ICU patient had been added to the county's total.

With an influx in demand for COVID-19 testing, more and more lines at county sites are getting longer. NBC 7’s Audra Stafford has more from one local and County Supervisor Nathan Fletcher

County leaders and health officials said on Monday that they were cautiously optimistic that local hospital systems could handle the latest COVID storm.

“The situation that we face today is fundamentally different than the situation we faced a year ago, because we now have a vaccine,” County Supervisor Nathan Fletcher said.

While COVID briefings were held regularly at the height of the pandemic, on Monday, Fletcher and the county’s chief medical officer made their first joint public appearance since September.

The briefing was held in the morning outside of the City Heights Recreation Center, where hundreds of people lined up for a COVID test.

The City Heights location is one of 24 county-run testing sites, where, in aggregate, an average of 5,500 people are being tested a day. County testing sites represent about 10% of the total number of tests being administered in the county, according to Fletcher.

“You have to come early," City Heights resident Christian Carreto said on Monday. "We’ve been here since 8 a.m., so first come, first serve. It’s insane, but it’s good that everybody’s taking this seriously, and they’re not messing around."

Carreto said he and three other family members tested positive using home testing kits after the Christmas holiday. He was at the rec center to retest before returning to work.

Meanwhile, as of the weekend, San Diego County had more than 600 people hospitalized with COVID, but at this time last year, that figure was 1,800.

“It appears now that our staff, our supplies and our structure that is in place for our health care system will be able to handle that stress” said Dr. Eric McDonald, San Diego County's chief medical officer, "but there’s always some uncertainty."

County leaders continued to urge people to get vaccinated and get boosters. They also reminded people not to go to hospital emergency rooms with mild symptoms but, rather, isolate at home and follow safety protocols.

“We’re going to get through this," Fletcher said. "We’re going to be OK. Time and again, we’ve faced these challenges, we’ve faced these spikes, faced different variants."

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