SAN JOSE (KPIX) – The largest testing facility in the Bay Area plans to ramp up testing dramatically, ahead of the holiday season.

Currently, the site at the Santa Clara County Fairgrounds parking lot conducts 2500 tests per day. By Thanksgiving week, that will be increased to 3000 per day. And by early December, the site will reach its maximum capacity of 5000 tests per day, for at least three days a week.

“We anticipate high demand for testing next week among those who are engaging in Thanksgiving plans. But we also want to make sure we have capacity for those who have symptoms, those who have been exposed, and who are most in need of testing,” said Dr. Jennifer Tong, associate chief medical officer for Valley Medical Center, who oversees the county’s public testing sites.

At the fairgrounds drive-thru site, 18 tents currently operate for six hours a day, as the vehicles snake around the mostly unused 14-acre lot. The average collection time is 15 minutes, but samples have been collected as quickly 6 minutes. To accommodate the increase, hours will be expanded for early morning appointments, and a second dayshift will be added.

The COVID-19 sample will also be tested for influenza, a first for the Bay Area, and possibly California.

Mirroring sentiments from San Francisco public health officials, Santa Clara County is also discouraging the use of public testing for holiday travel.

“There are many reasons right now why travel is not advised. The biggest reason is just due to the public health risk. We also would prefer to keep our testing capacity for those who are most in need,” said Tong.

As for utilizing public tests as a means of visiting with friends and family outside of your household, Tong said be mindful of the increased risks, in light of the county’s rollback to the purple tier.

“It’s still not a failsafe option. A test means you’re not infected on the day you had the test. But the virus could still be incubating inside your body. And that period of incubation can last up to 14 days after an exposure. So regardless of a negative test, people still need to take the precautions recommended by our public health experts,” said Tong.

Marshall Woodmansee, from San Jose, said it was tempting to use a free public test, as a means to see family this holiday.

“There is risk there. But it’s not an excuse to push the boundary,” said Woodmansee.

To schedule a free test in Santa Clara County visit, www.sccgov.org/sites/covid19/Pages/covid19-testing.aspx.

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