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San Diego libraries run out of free rapid tests

A woman waits inside the county's El Cajon branch library and is handed a free rapid COVID-19 test kit.
Matt Hoffman/KPBS
A woman waits inside the county's El Cajon branch library and is handed a free rapid COVID-19 test kit.

UPDATE: 3:53 p.m., Thursday, Dec. 30, 2021

All participating library branches in San Diego County are out of COVID-19 rapid tests.

Original Story:


The demand for coronavirus testing is rising, but some people are having trouble finding where to get results quickly. Some San Diego libraries are giving out free, rapid COVID-19 tests thanks to a new partnership with San Diego County.

The rapid tests provide results within minutes. They are being distributed to libraries throughout the San Diego region including county branches and libraries in the cities of San Diego, Chula Vista, Carlsbad, Escondido, Coronado and Oceanside.

A county spokesperson said the partnership was focusing on locations that are not close to testing facilities. Some library sites are already out of tests and at the El Cajon branch Wednesday the kits were going quick.

"My daughter told us that they were giving out free rapid tests here so I booked down here and got it," said El Cajon resident Laurence Vinti. "Nobody else has it."

Vinti said he tried looking for rapid tests at pharmacies with no luck. He wants to get tested after his grandkids contracted the virus.


"We had contact around Christmas so we thought we’d do the right thing and get tested," he said.

Others picking up the free tests also had searched for rapid tests at pharmacies and convenience stores.

"Honestly I went to Rite Aid, CVS, even called Walmart but everyone is out," said El Cajon resident Graciela Romano. She was there with her family getting tests after being exposed over Christmas.

"I just heard about it on a Facebook group and I’m excited because no one has it (rapid tests)," she said.

Many people said they needed the tests because they or another family member may have been exposed over the holidays.

"My son actually has some symptoms but with no fever or nothing," said El Cajon resident Firas Alnaque. "I was about to schedule an appointment but then I discovered they are handing out these tests so it’s very good."

People said they heard about the free tests either via social media or from friends and family. Each box given out has two tests inside and they are designed to be taken at home with results in about 15 minutes. People said picking them up was pretty easy.

"Piece of cake," said Ranch San Diego resident Jim Pascarella. "Very simple process. Really appreciate the simplicity."

San Diego Libraries Hand out rapid COVID-19 test, see high demand

Another thing we heard from everyone — they want the county to keep the free rapid tests coming.

"They should definitely keep doing this kind of thing, I mean this thing (Omicron) is spreading like fire right now with the holidays," Romano said.

Before going to a library a good tip is to call ahead and see if they still have tests available. A county spokesperson would not say if the free rapid test program was a one-time event or would be continued long-term.