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Rise in COVID-19 cases affecting community testing sites around the Central Coast

Posted at 6:31 PM, Dec 21, 2020
and last updated 2020-12-22 01:36:03-05

With Christmas just days away, many Central Coast residents are trying to get tested for COVID-19. This, along with the uptick in cases, is now impacting community testing sites.

Many testing sites around both Santa Barbara and San Luis Obispo counties have no available appointments. Santa Barbara County officials say a major reason for that is the upcoming holidays.

"Some of it may be with individuals concerned about the holiday season. We did see that during the Thanksgiving holiday,” said Matt Higgs, EMS Systems Coordinator for Santa Barbara County.

Higgs is one of Santa Barbara County’s COVID-19 testing leads and says availability at free testing sites across the county right now is very minimal.

Some are fully booked while the soonest appointments at others are not until Christmas Eve in both Santa Barbara and San Luis Obispo counties.

Results are also taking longer.

Shylo Tuter got tested at a county site in Paso Robles and calls the process quick.

"They walked me back, they tested me and I mean, it was a really quick process there. I was in and out which was great because I wasn’t feeling good,” Tuter said.

Tuter says she was showing symptoms and believes that’s the main reason she was able to get tested quickly.

Others without symptoms call the experience more challenging.

According to Santa Barbara County Public Health, county testing sites don't require you to be symptomatic but that may not be the case for other medical providers.

"Some clinical providers are requiring that some individuals are symptomatic before getting tested but that's an internal decision based on the organization that's providing it,” Higgs said.

At Med Stop Urgent Care in San Luis Obispo, Dr. Brian Roberts says he's seeing record numbers of more than 100 patients a day wanting to get tested.

"I'm going to Hawaii or I'm going to Alaska, I have some trip I have planned, so a trip or to see relatives is a little more of half of it right now," Dr. Roberts said.

Even though travel for the holidays is discouraged by local health officials, both Santa Barbara and San Luis Obispo counties expect testing sites to be impacted during and after the holiday season.

Santa Barbara County officials say because of that, they plan on expanding their testing sites very soon.

Prices for COVID-19 testing at non-county sites can range from no cost to more than $100.

If you are interested in rapid testing, both Rite-Aid and CVS provide testing at multiple locations in both SLO and Santa Barbara counties.

For more information on testing sites, you can visit -

Santa Barbara County COVID-19 testing website:
https://publichealthsbc.org/testing/

San Luis Obispo County COVID-19 testing website:
https://www.emergencyslo.org/en/testing-locations.aspx