By Kenny Choi

BERKELEY (KPIX 5) — Some COVID testing sites in the East Bay are noticing more demand and increasing the number of tests given per day amid the current coronavirus case surge, officials said.

The testing site at Martin Luther King Junior Youth Services Center in Berkeley is one of 27 free testing sites in Alameda County. It doubled its daily tests to more than 330 starting this week.

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Health officials expect a surge in cases and hospitalizations in the coming weeks and are seeing a higher demand for tests.

According to the Alameda County Health Department, Alameda county has the highest number of deaths in all Bay Area counties, and the second highest number of cases behind Santa Clara County.

Three things are partly driving the higher demand for testing these days according to Dr. Peter Chin Hong, a professor of medicine and infectious disease specialist at UCSF Medical School.

“There are a lot of different types of influenza as well. These have very indistinguishable clinical features than COVID so that will also bump up the testing demands,” said UCSF Professor of Medicine and Infectious Disease Specialist Dr. Peter Chin-Hong.

Other reasons include the recent surge in the number of cases, and holiday travel as the Transportation Security Administration reported 1.2 million people passed through airport security checkpoints Sunday, the highest total since the beginning of the pandemic.

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“The test as soon as you get back will pick up the risk from more than three days ago while the day seven test will be the best sweet spot,” said Hong.

Medical experts say it takes time for coronovirus to reproduce in the system before a test can detect it. The earliest is on day 3 or 4 after transmission, while most people will test positive by day 7.

The idea to test this week after traveling, is to shorten the length of the 2 week quarantine standard.

“That’s really where people are moving towards the idea of integrating testing and quarantining together instead of saying two weeks for everyone,” said Hong.

Alameda is seeing a 30 percent increase in new cases in its weekly average according to Alameda County health officials.

Top health officials recommend people over the age of 65 get tested immediately if they notice symptoms with the goal to assess the risk faster for higher-risk groups.

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But for younger people who traveled for the holiday, the recommendation is to get tested 5-to-10 days after traveling.