MONTEREY COUNTY, Calif. (KION) It's a throwback to the early days of the pandemic. Long lines for COVID testing across California, and limited appointments online.
The Monterey County Health Department says demand for testing has increased almost overnight — the state testing sites that have only been about 25% full over the last few months are now completely booked for the next couple of days.
We checked Thursday morning — the earliest appointment we could make in Monterey County on the OptumServe website was January 2. The earliest in Santa Cruz County was January 3. Monterey County says the state testing sites currently have the capacity to test about 165 people per day.
Santa Cruz County is now expanding testing capacity at three sites due to the surge in demand. Monterey County says they're also considering expanding testing capacity if the demand continues to be high.
"We did anticipate this. You know, we didn't quite know that Omicron was coming down the pipe, but we've seen this before, especially during holidays when people want to test before getting together with others," said Dr. David Ghilarducci, Deputy Health Officer for Santa Cruz County. "But what we're doing here in Santa Cruz County is we're expanding our testing sites, the hours and the availability."
Starting January 3, the mobile testing facility at Depot Park in Santa Cruz will be expanding hours from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. And starting January 5, the Ramsay Park testing site in Watsonville will begin doubling the number of testing appointments.
For those in the mountains, the San Lorenzo Valley mobile testing site will also return to Mountain Community Resources in Felton starting January 3. Appointments for all three sites can be made here.
At-home rapid test kits are another option — if you can find them in stock. The BinaxNow test kits are currently sold out online at Walgreens, CVS, Rite-Aid and Walmart. And you'll be lucky to find them in stores. They were sold out at several CVS stores in Salinas Thursday.
"There's no official reporting structure associated with those. So we're not recording how many positives there are. And we're also not reporting how many negatives there are. So we're losing a little bit of that," said Dr. Ghilarducci. "But the at-home antigen testing brings a lot of advantages because they give you a result right away and you can act upon that."
So what do you do if you can't get a test, or an appointment?
"If you're feeling ill or you think you may have been exposed, the most important thing is just to continue to isolate or quarantine yourself at home until you can get tested. We're recommending to presume that it is due to COVID if you're feeling ill. Until you can prove otherwise with the test," said Dr. Ghilarducci.