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Holidays and omicron lead to long lines at testing sites

Testing sites in San Diego County are seeing long lines as COVID cases are surging and the holidays are fast approaching. KPBS reporter Kitty Alvarado visited a testing site in City Heights where people were waiting for nearly an hour.

The line at the City Heights Recreation Center testing site on Thursday wrapped around the building, down the street to the baseball field.

Among those in line is Chula Vista resident Kylie Krueger — she and her family waited for nearly an hour. But Krueger said it's worth it to make sure they're only spreading holiday cheer during their Christmas gathering.

"We want to make sure ... especially at a time like this when we’re close to our loved ones that we’re not infecting any of them," she said.

COVID testing site line
Kitty Alvarado / KPBS
People waiting in line at City Heights Recreation Center to get tested for COVID-19, Dec. 23, 2021.

San Diegan Margaret McLean said she didn't expect the long wait.

"I was a little surprised I thought I got here early enough to get in and out quickly and run other errands, but we decided that we have to get tested [because] we’re traveling," she said.

McLean, who is a nurse, said she’ll follow the state’s guidelines and retest after her trip. She added that testing and being vaccinated are a must if we want the pandemic to end.

'I have a friend that works in an ICU here in San Diego, who has a 40-year-old patient, father of three, dying in the ICU right now who is not vaccinated," she said. "It doesn’t have to be this way."

"It does feel like groundhog day because we’re seeing it over and over again," said Dr. David Pride, associate director of microbiology at UC San Diego Health.

RELATED: UCSD reports 'unprecedented' spike in wastewater COVID viral load

He said they're feeling the surge again and are seeing unprecedented positivity rates at the hospital lab he manages.

"We at our institution just broke a record for number of positives in a single day," Pride said. "Meaning, that this is probably worse than it was last year, in terms of sheer numbers of people who are infected."

He said the problem is a combination of unvaccinated people and a lack of access to testing.

"We have to get better at testing we have to have more testing available on the market," Pride said. "Because one of the things that is keeping this pandemic going right now is the fact that it’s so hard to get a test."

Pride also made a point to say that a negative test is not a free pass to skip COVID-19 precautions. Infected People can test negative, not feel sick and still spread the virus.

"So that’s why it’s so important that we do these things like distance and masks because any of us can basically be pre-symptomatic or asymptomatic and shedding the virus to other people and just not know it," he said.

The county has a list of available testing locations on its website. It also has information on vaccines and boosters.