As the coronavirus positivity rate in San Diego County has surged, so has the demand for COVID-19 testing, leading to long waits for some services.
San Diegans have reported having to wait as long as a week for an available appointment at a county testing site; meanwhile, some have waited three hours at walk-up sites.
With hospitals limiting COVID-19 testing to at-risk people — those over the age of 65 or with pre-existing conditions — and pharmacies running out of test supplies, San Diegans are growing increasingly frustrated and desperate about the difficulty in finding a test.
San Diego County Board of Supervisors Chair Nathan Fletcher said it's not solely the county's responsibility to supply tests to the community.
"Ninety percent of the testing in San Diego County is not done by county government," Fletcher said. "Ninety percent of the testing is done by all of these other entities who have much larger footprints and staffing and facilities, and the county steps in to do the best we can."
Did the county drop the ball when it came to being prepared for this post-holiday surge?
"When you go from zero to 60, you can’t just immediately go build out infrastructure, and this has been true in every COVID surge we've had, and so we work to get testing more available and we’re working to get through all of that," Fletcher said. "We also work to right-size who is coming to get a test, and all of us are having staffing issues. We had one of our testing sites today — one of the reasons the lines are so long is because half the nurses called out sick because they have come down with COVID as well."
On Wednesday, the county added 198 testing appointments to six of its testing sites from Tuesday through Saturday, increasing the number of daily testing appointments at those sites from 396 to 594. The sites are at the following locations:
- Chula Vista: 1301 Oleander Ave.
- El Cajon: Former Assessor’s Office, 200 South Magnolia Ave.
- Escondido: North Inland Live Well Center, 649 West Mission Ave.
- Imperial Beach: Imperial Beach Sports Park, 426 Imperial Beach Blvd.
- National City: Kimball Senior Center, 1221 D Ave.
- Oceanside: North Coastal Live Well Center, 3807 Ocean Ranch Blvd.
Fletcher said that if someone has COVID symptoms and can't find a test, they should assume they have contracted the virus and quarantine in accordance with CDC guidelines. He added that residents should only get a test if they feel sick or are required to get one by an employer or school, or to travel.
"We have a lot of people who come every single day to get tested because they're curious, and that’s clogging a little bit of the line, so we’re working to both increase and kind of right-size demand a little bit," Fletcher said.