The demand for Covid-19 testing has jumped throughout Santa Clara County in recent weeks—a workload that public health officials welcome as part of a broader strategy to rein in the spread of the coronavirus that has resulted in another wave of indoor and public gathering restrictions all over the Bay Area and beyond.
At lunchtime on Nov. 17, a steady stream of cars lined up for drive-thru Covid-19 tests outside the De Paul Medical site off De Paul Drive in Morgan Hill. That site is open Monday through Friday from 8:30am to 5pm, but it is one of the lower-capacity testing sites in South County, with the ability to handle up to 100 patients per day (by appointment only), according to county health officials.
Dr. Jennifer Tong, Associate Chief Medical Officer for Valley Medical Center, briefly spoke outside the De Paul center about the growing demand for Covid-19 testing at sites throughout the county. The South County Annex building in Gilroy, where no appointment is needed, can administer up to 800 Covid-19 tests per day. Tong said while that test site slowed down after this summer, it has started to pick up again and on Tuesday there were about 100 people outside waiting for a test.
“Demand is going up at all the test sites” in Santa Clara County, Tong said. Some of the new demand is perhaps no surprise as the daily Covid-19 positivity rate continues to rise among the community, resulting in more people with symptoms or who have been exposed to somebody with symptoms.
As of Nov. 17, the seven-day average of daily new cases was 241, according to the county’s coronavirus website—the highest that Santa Clara County has seen since July. Covid-19 hospitalizations are on the way up too, with 151 patients in hospitals with the illness on Nov. 17.
Tong added county health officials hope that some of the increasing demand is related to efforts to educate residents—particularly frontline or “essential” workers—about the importance of Covid-19 testing.
“The virus that causes Covid-19 is different from any virus we’ve seen before in that it is significantly spread by people who are mildly symptomatic or asymptomatic,” Tong said. “Because these people pose a risk to others, we encourage all frontline workers to get tested at least once a month, even if they’re feeling well.”
The county will host a “pop-up” testing site Nov. 24 at the Morgan Hill Council Chamber Building, 17555 Peak Ave., from 9:30am to 4pm. Tong said the site will be able to test 750 people throughout the day, and county health staff expect all those slots to be filled. Appointments are required.
According to the county’s Covid-19 website, nearly 1.2 million Covid-19 tests have been administered in the county since the pandemic began in March. These tests have resulted in 33,960 positive results, as of Nov. 17. The seven-day average test positivity rate is 2.7 percent.
The county’s public health department on Nov. 17 also released the numbers of tests administered at South County sites since the pandemic began: 11,435 tests at the De Paul drive-thru site; 2,233 at Morgan Hill Council chambers; 29,091 at the South County Annex; 7,229 at Gavilan College; and 5,960 at Christopher High School.
Health officials continue to promote other, simple tried-and-true methods to help reduce the spread of Covid-19: wear face coverings in public, wash hands frequently and keep a distance of at least six feet from anyone outside the household.
Public health experts have also repeatedly in recent weeks discouraged local residents from traveling outside the Bay Area for Thanksgiving and other upcoming winter holidays.
To make a Covid-19 testing appointment at any site in the county, and to see a list of testing sites, visit sccfreetest.org.
Pop-up Covid-19 testing
The Morgan Hill Council Chamber Building, 17555 Peak Ave., will be open for Covid-19 testing 9:30am to 4pm Nov. 24. Appointments are required. To make an appointment, visit sccfreetest.org.