As the county and state continue to experience an unprecedented surge in demand for Covid-19 testing, San Benito County officials this week sent out a lengthy informational update in recognition of limited test availability and longer-than-expected testing turnaround times.
“We understand the challenges these issues have created in our county, and we are continually working with our partners to address the need for increased testing capacity as well as a more efficient turn-around time,” says the Jan. 20 press release from San Benito County Public Health. “We will provide further updates as they become available. At present, about four times as many people are getting tested every day in San Benito County than at any other time during the pandemic.”
San Benito County Public Health Services has requested additional testing capacity at the OptumServe state-sponsored testing site located at 930 Sunset Drive in Hollister. The current OptumServe testing site has the capacity to perform 990 scheduled tests per week. Due to recent staffing issues, the site could no longer accommodate walk-ins, county staff said.
As staffing issues are resolved, the county will advise when walk-ins are available. The county has also requested a mobile testing unit operated by OptumServe. Additional details are pending regarding this implementation.
As directed by the California Department of Public Health, San Benito County Public Health Services has distributed over 3,000 rapid tests to local healthcare providers, first responders and community-based organizations for immediate use and distribution, the press release says. First responders and health care providers will use the tests for their staff and patients to prevent spread in the workplace. Community-based organizations and places of worship will distribute to the community as supply allows and can be contacted directly for availability and distribution options.
To ensure that all Americans have access to timely Covid-19 testing, the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services and the U.S. Postal Service have launched COVIDtests.gov, a new site for requesting free home test kits by mail.
Every address in the U.S. is now eligible to receive four free tests by signing up at the site, which says orders will usually ship in 7-12 days.
Home test kits, also known as rapid antigen tests, are available over the counter at pharmacies. While the polymerase chain reaction (PCR) tests provided at community clinics like OptumServe are the most accurate for detecting Covid-19, due to current demand testing results can take several days and sometimes a week or more, county staff said. Therefore, rapid antigen tests are the best choice for finding out quickly if someone is contagious right now.
“That is why San Benito County Public Health Services (SBCPHS) encourages every household to request test kits from www.covidtests.gov, and any other available source, to plan ahead and have in your medicine cabinet just in case,” says the press release.
Public health officials also offered the following list of Frequently Asked Questions about testing in San Benito County:
When should I get tested?
You should get a Covid-19 test if:
– You have new symptoms such as fatigue, headache, body/muscle aches, cough, fever, sore throat, and/or congestion.
– You have symptoms and are at high risk for severe illness because of other medical conditions, age, or have a compromised immune system. You may qualify for treatment to reduce your risk of severe illness.
Consider getting tested if: You had a known exposure to someone with COVID 2-5 days ago, especially if you are unvaccinated.
Given how extremely contagious the Omicron variant is, if you have symptoms of Covid-19 and cannot get tested:
– Assume you have Covid-19 and follow isolation guidelines.
– If members of your household are having similar symptoms, and at least one of them tests positive for Covid-19, you can probably assume that all members have Covid-19 and follow isolation guidelines.
Do not get a PCR test if:
– You’ve tested positive in the last 90 days.
– You have already tested positive with a rapid home test.
– You need a negative test to end isolation early (for that, use a rapid home/antigen test).
I have tested positive for Covid-19. What should I do?
Everyone, regardless of vaccination status, previous infection or lack of symptoms who test positive for Covid-19 must:
– Stay home for at least five days. Isolation can end after day five if symptoms are not present or are resolving, or if a diagnostic specimen (rapid antigen preferred) collected on day five or later tests negative.
If unable to test or choosing not to test, and symptoms are not present or are resolving, isolation can end after day 10. If fever is present, isolation should be continued until fever resolves. If symptoms, other than fever, are not resolving, continue to isolate until symptoms are resolving or until after day 10. Wear a well-fitting mask around others for a total of 10 days, especially in indoor settings.
I’m having symptoms of Covid-19. Where should I go?
Contact your primary care provider to arrange for testing and directions on what to do. If you need emergency care, go to the nearest hospital emergency room.
Should I go to the hospital for a Covid-19 test?
The Emergency Department is for people who need emergency care. Residents should NOT visit the ER for Covid testing or mild Covid symptoms, such as cough, sore throat, runny nose or body aches. Emergency room visits should be reserved for those severely ill or who have serious health concerns and require emergency care.
Where do I go to get tested / find tests?
The only state supported Covid-19 testing site in San Benito County is through OptumServe which is located at 930 Sunset Dr. Hollister, CA 95023. However, due to increase in testing demand this site will be by appointment only and will not accommodate walk-ins. Appointments can be made at www.lhi.care. This testing site is operated by Logistics Health Incorporated (LHI), not Hazel Hawkins Memorial Hospital.
What does it mean if the Hollister OptumServe location does not display on the www.lhi.care website?
If the Hollister OptumServe clinic does not display as an option on the LHI website this means that no appointments are available for the coming weeks. Additional appointments could be available in neighboring counties. You can continue to check the LHI website for cancelations or additional local availability.
There is a new pop up Covid-19 testing unit in my area, are they legitimate?
Don’t assume every Covid-19 test site is legit. With Covid-19 testing in short supply, scammers are taking advantage of those seeking testing. Scammers have created fake and unauthorized at-home testing kits, as well as fake Covid-19 testing sites.
If you question a testing site’s legitimacy, check the state website at www.covid19.ca.gov/get-tested/ to see if the site is listed on the website.
Additional information from the Federal Trade Commission (FTC):
Who should I contact if my school age child needs a COVID-19 test?
The state has provided Covid-19 tests to all schools. Parents should contact their children’s school principal to inquire about a Covid-19 test.
What healthcare providers or community-based organizations received rapid tests from San
Benito County Public Health Services distribution of the state allocation?
Rapid tests delivered to emergency responders and health care providers are reserved for staff and patients and will not be distributed to the community. Community-based organizations and places of worship will distribute tests as supply allows and can be contacted directly about availability and distribution.
Partners of this program include:
Places of Worship: Aromas Bible Church, Calvary Baptist Church, Grace Bible Church, Hollister United Methodist Church, Lighthouse Full Gospel Church of Christ, Oasis Chapel, South Valley Community Church, St. Benedicts/Sacred Heart And Victory Outreach.
Healthcare Providers & Congregate Living Facilities: Dr. Craig Nagareda DDS, Dr. Marie Grageda, Dr. Marni Friedman, Dr. Silvia Morgan, Emmaus House, Hazel Hawkins Hospital, Hollister Pediatrics, Hollister Women’s Health, HOME Resource Center, Primary Care Associates, San Benito Health Foundation, SBC Migrant Camp, Whispering Pines LTCF.
Community-Based Organizations: Community Food Bank of SBC, San Benito County Free Library, San Juan Bautista Library, San Benito County LULAC, Youth Alliance.
Do I have to pay for a Covid-19 test?
No, you do not have to pay for a Covid-19 test. An insured person can get a Covid-19 test when needed by any provider, in or out of their health plan network, at no cost. If you’re uninsured, the government pays for your test.
But there are some Covid-19 tests you do have to pay for, including at-home test kits and some rapid result tests.
What type of mask should I wear?
Wearing a mask is essential during the Covid-19 pandemic. It will help prevent both you and others from getting Covid-19. This is more important than ever with new, more easily transmitted variants of Covid-19 on the rise. San Benito County Public Health strongly encourages the use of N95 or KN95 masks. While a cloth mask is better than no mask it does not provide the protection needed for the highly transmissible Omicron variant. Additional masking information can be found here.
What else Should I Do?
Get everyone eligible in your family vaccinated as soon as possible, including a booster shot when eligible. Vaccination offers far more powerful and effective protection from these viruses than any testing and quarantine strategy. Adult and pediatric appointments are available at www.myturn.ca.gov. Residents should also check with health care providers and pharmacies for vaccine and booster availability.
Wear a mask with good fit and filtration in ALL indoor public settings (including public transportation). N95 and KN95 or surgical masks do the best job filtering out viruses.
Anyone feeling sick, even with mild symptoms (sore throat, cough, sniffles), should stay home, isolate from others, and get tested. Anyone confirmed positive for COVID should quarantine. Seek medical care if you experience respiratory difficulties.
Additional Covid-19 Testing Sites:
– Virus Geeks: https://my.virusgeeks.com/
– ARCpoint Labs Monterey-Fee Based Testing: https://www.labtestmonterey.com/
– ARCpoint Labs Salinas-Fee Based Testing- https://www.labtestsalinas.com/
– Monterey County Testing Sites: https://www.co.monterey.ca.us/government/departments-a-h/health/diseases/2019-novel-coronavirus-covid-19/covid-19-testing-locations
– Santa Clara County Testing Sites: https://covid19.sccgov.org/covid-19-testing
– Merced County Testing Sites: https://www.co.merced.ca.us/3436/Testing-Locations
– Kaiser Permanente Covid-19 Testing Information: https://healthy.kaiserpermanente.org/northern-california/health-wellness/coronavirus-information/testing
– Palo Alto Medical Foundation (PAMF) COVID-19 Testing Information: https://www.sutterhealth.org/for-patients/health-alerts/covid-19-faqs#category=screening-testing
– Veterans Affair (VA) Covid-19 Testing Information:
– Additional State vetted Covid-19 testing sites: www.covid19.ca.gov
For answers to other common questions about Covid-19 testing, go to www.covid19.ca.gov.