Local COVID-19 Testing Capacity Increases

Written by Theresa-Marie Wilson

Theresa-Maria Wilson has been a journalist covering the North Coast and South County area for over 20 years. She is also the founder of Cat Noir CC and is currently working on a novel.

August 30, 2020

In some counties across the Nation, the turnaround on COVID-19 test results is about 10 days, which could stymie decreasing the spread of the virus if people are not self-quarantining before receiving the positive or negative news. SLO County Public Health says that is not necessarily the situation locally.

“In general, testing results from private laboratories, we are told, are taking 4-7 business days,” said Public Health Dept. spokeswoman Michelle Shoresman in an email to Estero Bay News. “Tests conducted by our public health lab take 24 to 48 hours. When someone with symptoms is identified through contact tracing, we use the public health lab for testing. This expedites our access to the results, and therefore, allows the contact tracing process to move quickly. The longer it takes for testing results to be obtained by the Public Health Department, the harder it is to conduct that contact tracing process.”

Due to increased testing capacity, the Public Health Department is once again urging anyone with COVID-19 symptoms or who may have been exposed to the virus to get tested at one of the County’s community testing clinics.

“We ask that when someone goes to get a test, they self-quarantine until they obtain their results,” Shoresman said. “This is the best practice to ensure the least amount of spread. Also, if someone feels symptoms, the best practice is to stay home except to obtain testing or medical care as needed, so yes, that may mean staying home from work when one is ill to prevent further spread of the virus.”

It is a good idea to take note of people you may have had close contact with (more than 15 minutes at closer than 6 feet) the two days prior to when you developed symptoms.  If you need to talk with a contact tracer, this is the kind of information they will ask, Shoresman said.

Good news in the form of lower case numbers countywide last week was welcomed guardedly.

“We are cautiously optimistic that perhaps we’re beginning to see a decrease in our case counts,” said County Public Health Officer, Dr. Penny Borenstein during a press briefing on August 19 following single-digit days of cases reported. “We have been seeing these lower numbers in the last few days, as I’ve said, and if you were to look outside, business is not usual because of the smoke and the air quality. So we believe that the decrease in testing that we are seeing this week, that’s even way down from what we were seeing last week may in fact be that people are appropriately staying home. But I do want to remind folks that we have a lot more testing capacity now available.”

So how close is SLO County to getting off the State watch list, which could ease restrictions on reopening and allow customers at restaurants and salons to head back indoors?

“We’re still a ways off though, from getting below that hundred per hundred thousand or roughly 20 cases a day over a two week period,” Borenstein said. “We’re heading in the right direction. I continue to hope and ask of everyone that we work hard to get there. What you really need to see is a full incubation period of what’s going on in your county, that’s a 14-day period. So it may be that people are testing less right now. People may be not feeling well but saying, ‘I’m not going go out to get tested in the middle of this heat wave and with smoke in the air.’ So I think we’ll just really need to see what it looks like over that two-week period.”

On the day of the press briefing, the totally number of SLO County cases was 2579, as of August 25, the total is 2769

Testing Sites

• Ramona Garden Park Center – 993 Ramona Avenue in Grover Beach (By appointment, Monday through Friday from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.
San Luis Obispo Vet’s Hall – 801Grand Avesnue in San Luis Obispo (By appointment, Monday through Friday from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.)

Testing is also available to those who are higher-risk (over the age of 65 OR any age with chronic medical conditions that increase the risk of severe COVID-19 illness), work in essential occupations, and live or work in a congregate care setting. Testing is available at no cost to individuals. For those who have health insurance, information will be collected when registering for an appointment and no co-pay is required.

To make an appointment to get tested, go to EmergencySLO.org/testing. This testing is available through a partnership with the County of San Luis Obispo, the State of California, and the Cities of Atascadero, Grover Beach and San Luis Obispo.

For updates on COVID-19 in SLO County, visit ReadySLO.org or call the recorded Public Health Information Line at (805) 788-2903. A staffed phone assistance center at (805) 543-2444 is available Monday through Friday, from 8 am to 5 pm to assist with COVID-19 questions.

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