Santa Barbara Co. begins community-based testing with fully booked appointments

Posted at 5:33 PM, May 05, 2020
and last updated 2020-05-05 22:02:57-04

A community-based coronavirus testing site opened Tuesday in Santa Barbara County’s hardest hit city, Santa Maria, and the schedule was fully booked with appointments on its first day.

Santa Maria has seen more coronavirus cases than any other city in both Santa Barbara and San Luis Obispo counties, making it an appropriate starting point for a new community-based testing site that has the capacity to screen 132 people per day.

"It is one of the areas with the highest levels of current positive tests. It's also one of our major population centers, so it just sort of seemed between our three options to just start there," said Nick Clay, Santa Barbara County Emergency Medical Services Agency Director.

As appointments were completely booked, health officials believe it speaks to the community's demand for testing.

"What it shows is that the community is engaged, the community has a need for testing, and it shows that we picked the right spot. Not only is today busy but tomorrow is also just about full," Clay said.

A couple of weeks back, during a Santa Barbara County Board of Supervisors meeting, county health officials broke down the demographics of the cases at the time: 61% of cases were among Hispanic people compared to 31% of cases among Caucasians, and only four cases among African Americans and three among Asians.

In April, Santa Barbara County Public Health Officer Dr. Henning Ansorg pointed to population density in Santa Maria as a potential reason for why the area is being hit the hardest.

With additional access to testing, health officials expect case numbers could go up.

"If we were to have fully booked tests across all of our sites, we would expect an increase of about 10% of those sites, so in Santa Maria we would expect an increase of about 13 patients per day," Clay said.

Clay says even though the number of confirmed cases might go up, it shouldn't be alarming, as it points to the increased testing capabilities.

This Monday was San Luis Obispo County's first day of community-based testing and it conducted approximately 100 tests at the Grover Beach location and 124 in Paso Robles.

Later this week Santa Barbara County will also add testing sites in Santa Barbara and Lompoc, and all three locations will be operating for about 60 days