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San Diego Drive-Up COVID-19 Test Sites Will Soon Require Appointments

Medical staff administer COVID-19 swab tests at the drive-through Aquatica San Diego testing location, Dec. 8, 2020.
Jacob Aere
Medical staff administer COVID-19 swab tests at the drive-through Aquatica San Diego testing location, Dec. 8, 2020.

San Diego County’s drive-up COVID-19 testing sites are transitioning to appointment-only service because of long lines and safety concerns.

The change will happen by the end of the week.

San Diego Drive-Up COVID-19 Test Sites Will Soon Require Appointments
Listen to this story by Jacob Aere.
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On Tuesday, long lines stretched around the Aquatica San Diego parking lot. The site is one of six drive-thru test sites available across the county.

The waterpark parking lot was once filled with parked cars and eager families. Now hundreds of cars line up there every day for COVID-19 tests.

Adrian Barba was one of three people in his pickup truck who waited in line to be tested at the location after his sister contracted the novel coronavirus.

“I actually set a timer. I was here for an hour and twenty minutes,” he said.

Barba said he’s been tested before, but the situation feels different now. Especially after the state issued a COVID-19 advisory to cell phones.

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“Honestly, that little Amber Alert got me really scared. It made it feel more surreal in a way,” he said.

RELATED: Long Testing Lines, Increase In COVID-19 Cases Expected After Thanksgiving

Jennifer Bransford-Koons, the public testing branch director for the county’s COVID-19 response team, said the increase in demand for COVID-19 testing forced the change.

“Over the last little bit, we’ve seen the demand for testing increase to the point where it became unsafe for not only for the people being tested but also staff, because of the long wait times and the long lines,” she said.

The change to appointment-only drive-thru testing could switch back in the future, she said.

“We may be able to, at some point, go back to no appointment testing sites that are drive-thru," Bransford-Koons said. "The walk-up testing sites — we don't anticipate at this point in time needing to have appointments there."

For now, the county's 13 walk-up testing sites are still open to the public with no appointment required. To schedule a COVID-19 test, call 211 or go to 211sandiego.org.

As coronavirus cases surge, San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer officially leaves office Thursday. KPBS spoke with Faulconer about his nearly seven years in office and his potential run for governor in 2022 Meanwhile, state health officials warn about a dangerous spike in coronavirus cases and broad transmission of the virus. As local counties and cities try to grapple with the stay-at-home orders, it’s led to a patchwork of restrictions across the state.

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