A rapid COVID-19 testing location has opened in Lompoc, which can provide results to patients within minutes. But health officials warn not to rely solely on the rapid test if the result is negative.
For those who cannot wait days to get COVID test results, Merso Labs is offering a free, rapid-testing option at Lompoc’s DeWess Community Center every Thursday from 10 am to 3 pm.
Dr. Kaleb Asfaha said it's open to anyone on the Central Coast and you don’t need to make an appointment.
“It’s walk-up only," Asfaha said. "We considered that it was very important to have the availability and accessibility for everyone.”
The site can test around 400 people daily, and Asfaha said people tend to start lining up an hour before opening.
“For those who are feeling very unwell and senior citizens, we do offer priority for them so that they don’t have to wait as long, "Asfaha said.
Asfaha said everyone who comes to the testing center takes the more accurate PCR test, which provides results within 3 days.
There is a second nasal testing option available, providing results in about 15 minutes. But Asfaha cautions that some studies have shown the rapid tests can miss low levels of virus, giving people a false negative.
“But it does catch highly viral infectious [people]," Asfaha said. "The positives are accurate.”
He said rapid tests play an important role and can be very valuable in some cases. For instance, a patient who needs surgery and can’t wait a day or two for results.
“When this service is provided, I think it’s good to have that kind of short piece of mind with the early detection on the rapid test,” Asfaha said.
The tests are free, but for those with health insurance, they must bring their health insurance ID.
“If you are insured and you don't bring your ID, we can’t bill as uninsured," Asfaha said. "And then that person will be responsible for the cost, and we don’t want that to happen.”
Asfaha said Merso Labs is looking at partnering with other Central Coast cities to expand testing options.