OAKLAND (KPIX 5) — The demand for COVID-19 testing is spiking less than a week away from Thanksgiving. Many people said they want to get tested before hopping on a flight and spending time with family. But one county public health director said that’s a bad idea.
“I decided to get tested today because I am visiting my family next week for Thanksgiving. And my mom’s older, she’s a senior citizen. And I just wanted to make sure that I am taking all the precautions I can,” said Katrina Cameron.
Cameron will be flying down to San Diego next week. She thought about cancelling, but worried rising COVID-19 cases could lead to more travel restrictions later.
“And then, I thought ‘what if it gets worse and then I don’t even have the option to travel?'” Cameron said.
Health officials said there’s no shortage of test kits. But the higher demand means longer lines, and possibly delays in getting results.
California health officials reported 178,023 people in the state were tested for the coronavirus on Thursday. In Alameda County alone, that number was 5,570.
“The first guy today said he had his car parked there since 3:30 this morning,” said Janine Pinks, a physician assistant at Stanford Health Care ValleyCare.
Tests are being administered at the Alameda County Fairgrounds in Pleasanton without an appointment needed. But they only have 200 test kits each day.
“So we already had 200 people in line by 9:30 yesterday. Today, we were turning people away people by 8:30 because there were already 200 people in line,” said Pinks.
Some health officers have offered competing messages about whether or not people should get tested.
“We want people who must test to continue to have access. Essential workers, people who have been exposed, and people who have symptoms,” said Santa Clara County Health Officer Dr. Sara Cody.
“We’re asking people who want to test, because perhaps they want to test before traveling or because they want to attend a small gathering, to please not,” Cody went on to say. “Simply postpone your travel, postpone your gathering until we’re out of this critical phase in this pandemic.”
Health officials warned a negative pre-travel test doesn’t guarantee you won’t spread the virus. Cameron plans to get one more test in San Diego before seeing her mom.
“I’m just trying to be more cautious about myself and my surroundings and do what I can to be safe,” said Cameron.
Health officials said the demand will be even higher next week. They said if you have to get a test, make an appointment as soon as possible.