City Heights

COVID Testing Lines Are Dwindling Compared to Post-Holiday Surge

San Diego County officials attribute shorter lines at COVID-19 testing sites to more capacity and less testing demand.

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Aflredo Barum couldn't believe his eyes as he arrived at San Diego County’s City Heights COVID-19 testing site.

"When I first turned the corner I thought it was closed. Because there was nobody," Barum said chuckling, adding that he was expecting a line.

Earlier this month as omicron surged, hundreds of people crowded the sidewalk outside the City Heights Recreation Center waiting two-and-a-half hours or more to get in for a test.

Those long lines had Cassandra Cuevas and Navil Martinez bracing for the worst.

UC San Diego Health is enrolling students and employees in a new study that will investigate how long immunity to COVID-19 lasts after vaccination or contracting the virus. UCSD Chief Medical Officer Dr. Christopher Longhurst spoke with NBC 7's Catherine Garcia about how the “Neutralizing Antibody Project” will work.

"Not going to lie. A little bit of angst. The thought of waiting is annoying, especially when you've got to get tested for something serious," said Martinez.

Cuevas said she was sure to charge her phone to keep her entertained.

"I thought there was going to be a lot of people. But I came and there wasn't a big line," she told NBC 7 Tuesday afternoon.

Both Cuevas and Martinez breezed through the process in less than five minutes.

San Diego County officials say the reduced wait times are partially due to added "capacity," like the recently-opened testing site at the Palomar YMCA in Escondido. The demand has also quite down compared to immediately after the holidays.

Since Thursday, the testing numbers have trended down from more than 46,100 to roughly 25,400 Saturday. That's a nearly 45% drop in volume, leading to a far greater decrease in wait time for people like Barum, Cuevas and Martinez.

"It was a good surprise. I'm stoked," Barum said.

Twenty members of the National Guard are still stationed at six different COVID-19 testing sites across the county.

A spokesperson with the National Guard said they’ll be at the locations as long as needed to continue helping people in and out of testing facilities, as well as traffic control.

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