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San Diego County residents scramble to get COVID-19 tests

There are long lines today at San Diego COVID-19 testing stations as people wait to get tests in the midst of the latest surge of infections. KPBS Reporter Erik Anderson has details.

There were long lines Monday morning at a San Diego COVID-19 testing station in City Heights as people waited to get tests in the midst of the latest surge of infections.

Many of those waiting expressed post-holiday concern about being in contact with people who might have been infected.

“We were able to hang out with some family that got together with a bigger family,” said Yara Pineda, a Hillcrest resident.

Pineda waited in a long line that stretched for blocks from the City Heights Recreation Center because she wanted to find out if the latest wave of COVID infections have touched her.

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Mike Damron / KPBS
San Diego County residents wait in a long line to get COVID-19 tests at the City Heights Recreation Center on Jan. 3, 2021.

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Pineda wanted to get tested to make sure it’s OK to be with her 4-year-old child, who is too young to be vaccinated.

“I have two doses,” Pineda said. “I’m waiting for the booster. So after this passes after I get my results I’m actually looking forward to getting the booster shot.”

There were a lot of people trying to get tested in part because at-home testing kits were nearly impossible to find late last week, and the county shut down in-person testing over the weekend as demand for tests rose sharply.

The county's decision to close testing stations during a surge had San Diego County Supervisor Nathan Fletcher on the defensive.

He said county health care workers needed a break from a pandemic that has lasted a lot longer than people expected.

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“Health care workers have gone through a lot,” Fletcher said. “So the ability to give them a day or two to be with their families given that the county only administers about ten percent of the total tests. Let’s put this in context now. It’s about ten percent of the total regional amount. To give them a day or two to be with their families I think was the right thing to do.”

County officials say there will be 84 in-person testing events this week, run by the county and its partners. The news is a mixed blessing for some.

“It worries me a lot standing in line. Being around all these people, it worries me a lot,” said North Park’s Janet Robinson. She just wants to make sure she and her grandchildren are safe.

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“I had my hood up,” Robinson said. “My glasses on. I’m scared. I had some chills. This is scary.”

San Diego County’s COVID-19 infection rate of 65 cases per 100,000 people is currently running higher than the state average of 46 cases per 100,000.

The number of coronavirus patients in San Diego County hospitals continued to climb at a pace not seen since August, according to state figures released Monday.

There were 664 people in the county hospitalized with COVID-19 as of Monday, up from 628 on Sunday, 590 on Saturday, 510 on Friday and 475 on Thursday. Of the current patients, 122 were in intensive care, a decrease of two from the previous day. The number of available ICU beds increased by seven to 188.

California has had nearly 5.2 million cases of COVID infections since the pandemic began. The virus has killed more than 75,000 people in the state.