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Health, Science and Technology

Federal government launches free test kit site as demand at local COVID-19 testing sites continues to surge

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Angel Russell
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The San Luis Obispo Veterans Hall testing site is testing more than 500 people a day, with walk-ins being requested to try back at noon and 5 p.m. this week

The federal government website to order free COVID-19 tests launched today, but with tests not expected to arrive to households until later this month, COVID-19 testing sites continue to see a surge of people — making appointments tough to snag in San Luis Obispo County.

Demand for COVID-19 testing continues to soar due to the Omicron variant and the long holiday weekend, with the testing site at the San Luis Obispo Veterans Hall seeing more than 500 people a day.

That led Cameron Geyer in search of a rapid at-home test.

“I’m trying to get a COVID test, but it’s impossible," Geyer said. "Just walking around at like CVS, Rite Aid, Target — but nobody has them.”

Geyer tried to book an appointment for a PCR test at a county testing site online, but the earliest available appointment in SLO County wasn’t until Thursday.

He thought he’d try his luck showing up when doors opened to do a walk-in appointment. But right now, staff are asking walk-ins to come back at noon or 5p.m. to check for availability, since they are fully booked.

For Geyer, that’s bad news. Since he tested positive for the virus last week, he can’t return to work until he gets a negative test result.

“I could do unemployment, but it's not really worth it," Geyer said. "It sucks, but I got to get over it.”

Dr. Penny Borenstein with SLO County Public Health said demand for tests continues to be high, so people should be aware they may not be able to do walk-up appointments during this surge.

Tyler Brooks said he feels pretty lucky he got an appointment at the SLO Veterans Hall as he watched several people without appointments get turned away Tuesday.

Brooks said he and several other classmates tested positive for the virus last week, and they can’t return to campus until they get a negative test result.

But since results can take up to five days, he and several of his friends are stuck with online learning for now.

“It’s boring, but everybody got it," Brooks said. "So, we are all in the same boat.”

The government website to order four free at-home COVID-19 tests is active now, but orders aren’t expected to ship until 7-12 days after ordering.

For now, county health officials are urging people to book an appointment online. And if you need a test sooner than that, but if you’re sick and can’t get tested, they advise to stay home and quarantine.