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Long Lines And Wait Times As Free Coronavirus Testing Begins In San Diego County

People line up for a COVID-19 test in El Cajon at Grossmont College, May 5, 2...

Photo by Matt Hoffman

Above: People line up for a COVID-19 test in El Cajon at Grossmont College, May 5, 2020.

You can now get a coronavirus test for free and without a doctor's referral in San Diego county.

Testing sites in Escondido, Chula Vista and in El Cajon opened up for the first time Tuesday. The state of California is contracting with OptumServe to provide the testing.

Appointments are required, and there are two ways to sign up. One is online at There, you will need to provide some basic information, answer a few questions and then choose where you want to be tested. There is a section asking if you have insurance, but that part does not need to be filled out to book an appointment.

You can also call 1-888-634-1123 to schedule a test.

"The process seemed to be fine until I got here," said Raul Samaniego of Kensington, who went to the testing site at Grossmont College in El Cajon.

Many people at the Grossmont site said setting up an appointment was easy, but they did not expect to be waiting outside in the sun for two plus hours.

"9 a.m. appointment, 11 a.m. testing," said Stephen Kurtzman of Tierrasanta, who was tested Tuesday in El Cajon. "They had some trouble with their computers."

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Once they got to the front of the line, people said the process was simple and quick.

"Two hours in line and then once you get in you should be out in ten minutes," Samaniego said.

The test is a swab that goes up your nose, and results are delivered within 72 hours by email or phone. Appointments are available Monday-Friday. Strict social distancing guidelines are in place at the test sites.

At Tuesday's county briefing regarding COVID-19 officials said the state-sponsored testing sites are part of a regional approach to increase testing.

"The state resource is kind of a new one," said San Diego County Supervisor Nathan Flether, acting as the county spokesperson Tuesday. "Initially we believe we could be doing 782 tests on the three sites that we have now."

Fletcher acknowledged that on the first day of operation the testing sites had some logistical and staffing challenges.

"There is the potential that once the kinks are worked out and we're able to show the need, that we could potentially increase that (the testing sites) as well," Fletcher said.

There is a daily goal of 5,200 tests per day. On Monday, without the new testing sites, 2,300 tests were done in San Diego County.

Listen to this story by Matt Hoffman.

Editor's Note: This story was updated on 5/6/20 to provide the direct number for test scheduling.


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Photo of Matt Hoffman

Matt Hoffman
Health Reporter

opening quote marksclosing quote marksI am a general assignment reporter for KPBS. In addition to covering the latest news and issues that are relevant to the San Diego community, I like to dig deeper to find the voices and perspectives that other media often miss.

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