As a new sign that coronavirus testing capacity is beyond its limits, the state will be deploying National Guard members to 50 test sites across California, including six in San Diego County.
The locations in Linda Vista, Chula Vista, El Cajon, Escondido, National City and Oceanside will each host two medical specialists, an official from Governor Gavin Newsom’s press office said on Saturday, and additional staff are planned to be added to these locations in the future send week to help with logistics, including crowd control.
The move comes as San Diego County continues to see unprecedented demand for coronavirus testing. In the first week of the new year, an average of 23,000 coronavirus tests per day were carried out in the region, according to the health department. That is around 4,500 more every 24 hours than was processed at the same time in the previous year, a moment that many will remember, which at the time was itself viewed as a crisis level of the company.
A walk-in testing center in Cal State San Marcos, North County, testified the frayed nature of the current situation on Thursday.
It was a mixture of motivations, from curiosity to confirmation, that they brought out, some were sitting on folding chairs and had expected a wait of several hours.
A couple who refused to give their name said they had been told by their manager two days earlier that they would have to pass negative coronavirus tests before returning to their retail jobs, even though they had no symptoms or known exposures.
Nearby stood James Petit of Vista, who said he stood in line out of concern for his wife, who had cancer.
“We’re very careful,” Petit said, adding that his concern came from contact with a relative who tested positive, even though he had no symptoms himself.
Later on, Josh Nataki was studying a textbook on flight instruction for his classes at McClellan-Palomar Airport in Carlsbad.
“I was traveling on vacation and got a kind of cold, so I want to get tested,” said Petit.
Forty miles south, many waited on the test line at Chula Vista City Hall.
Among them was Alyzen Ambito, who said she had been exposed to someone diagnosed with COVID-19.
“I took a test at home that came back negative, but I just wanted to take another one just in case,” she said after the test.
Several families at the test site went out for similar reasons and said they had shown symptoms, but previous tests were negative. Paola Ruvalcaba left with her three children after one of her children tested positive.
“My daughter tested negative twice – one at home and one that I paid for – and then tested positive at work. We came because we were all exposed, but we feel good, ”she said.
Talk to enough people waiting in these very long lines and one thing is clear: there are very few priorities. Those with possible symptoms of coronavirus infection very often wait behind those who may have been exposed or whose employers have them tested, perhaps even when they have no specific reason to believe that they might get sick anytime soon.
Dr. Robert “Chip” Schooley, UC San Diego’s infectious disease expert who helped manage the university’s prestigious testing system for students and staff, compared the current pulp to an iconically messed up game for kids.
“We really did drop a lot of pick-up stix without much organization,” said Schooley.
It just doesn’t make sense from an epidemiological point of view to have people with symptoms alongside those who may not yet be infected.
“If we had great organizational skills and a more organized health system, we would have a line for people with symptoms and a line for people screening to go back to school and work, and maybe a third STAT line for people who have symptoms and comorbidities, ”Schooley said, referring to the chronic conditions like diabetes and heart disease that greatly increase the chances of ending up in a hospital bed.
The situation went well beyond normal last week as most local emergency rooms reported a large increase in the number of residents affected, skipping the queues at test centers and going to the hospital instead. The extra work came at precisely the wrong time, with many medical workers working concurrently with large numbers of healthcare workers who called in sick after a positive test.
Since the number of new cases every day was over 5,000 by the weekend, the district health department requested the public in a written declaration to be tested “only if symptoms”, but did not announce any new steps to prioritize or further organize its test centers. The county can only do so much, as its efforts account for only about 10 percent of the region’s total testing capacity, with the majority being conducted by health care providers, drug stores, and private for-profit companies.
The county’s announcement appeared to tangentially address the spate of re-entry tests that are helping to keep queues longer pretty much everywhere, and calling on employers to “be flexible and allow employees to work remotely for their safety and wellbeing leave if the job allows “. those around them. “
Experts said testing for people with serious health problems as COVID-19 is currently a priority. This is because special drugs called monoclonal antibodies, as well as paxlovid, a newly approved antiviral drug, are specifically approved for those at the highest risk of hospitalization and death.
Dr. Christian Ramers, a medical director of family health centers with extensive public health expertise, said paxlovid was not yet available in sufficient quantities to make a significant difference during the current coronavirus surge. However, in recent weeks, a monoclonal antibody treatment called sotrovimab, which is highly effective in preventing serious illness in high-risk patients, has been used extensively.
“I see there are currently about five treatment requests coming in every minute,” said Ramers. “Our sotrovimab supply is as good as used up.”
At that moment, he said, the idea of testing for travel and other optional activities feels a bit much. With the virus popping up everywhere, the focus should be kept as far away from others as possible.
“We almost have to go into a self-imposed lockdown and take it easy while this settles down because our hospital systems are on the verge of conflict, our healthcare staff are in great trouble,” said Ramers. “We just need more understanding from the public.”
To date, the San Diego County Health Department has continued to follow the lead of the state and has taken no steps to restrict public activities.
Tamara Murga and Gary Warth contributed to this report.