By Devin Fehely

SAN JOSE (KPIX) — Public health officials are once again racing to meet the demand for COVID-19 testing as the Bay Area braces for a spike in cases after the Christmas and New Year’s holidays.

“The highest priority for testing right now are people with symptoms. They’re probably at the peak of infectiousness to others,” says Dr. Jennifer Tong, Santa Clara County’s Testing Coordinator. “And the second priority after that would be people who’ve had a known close contact exposure.”

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Dr. Tong says the public health department is administering more COVID-19 tests at its three remaining large-scale testing sites than at any other point in the pandemic.

But frankly it is still not enough. Appointments are difficult to come by and patients say they waited days — some as long as a week — to book a test.

“Last night, I spent the night in my car. I got an OK night of sleep. And right now, I’m just trying to get tested so I don’t have to do that again,” says Shea Duty who fears he was exposed at a small gathering of friends on New Year’s eve.

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“Over New Year’s, it was a small crowd — less than 10 people — but I still somehow got exposed,” he said.

He joined a friend who had an appointment at the county’s testing site at the fairgrounds, hoping to be squeezed in. He was unfortunately turned away.

“I had to book this appointment a week in advance. Normally, I’ll go online and book an appointment the day of. So, this was really quite intense to see how booked out they were,” says his friend Amanda Antone.

Public health officials says ready access to rapid, reliable tests is a crucial component of their battle against the virus.

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But they acknowledge that as the Omicron variant spreads and people rush to get tested, the demand has far exceeded the supply of available tests.