For several hours on July 7, people scheduled for COVID-19 testing at the Veterans Memorial Building in Hollister were turned away and told to come back later. It was not the first time and likely will not be the last. The culprit? Supply and demand.
OptumServe has been offering free testing in its temporary facility since May 5. Originally slated to last two weeks, the program will continue through Aug. 30.
The success of the program throughout the state has resulted in temporary shortages of tests in some places, including San Benito County.
“It is a supply-and-demand quandary for both the testing kits and the equipment,” said Samela Perez, public information officer for the San Benito County Health and Human Services Agency. “Mostly, people are not getting tested for lack of kits. It is a system-wide problem.”
OptumServe notified the agency that it was having to cancel and reschedule tests because it had fewer available kits.
The county is working to accommodate those facing canceled appointments.
“If they are unable to be tested due to OptumServe running out of kits,” Perez said, “they can come back any time OptumServe is open again as a drop-in patient.”
On July 7, the OptumServe facility in Salinas came to the rescue, sending 100 kits to Hollister. Perez says other counties have also helped resolve shortages.
Even with the occasional lack of kits, OptumServe is operating at about 85% capacity. They can test as many as 132 people a day and recently have been conducting an average of 121 tests a day.
Perez stressed that testing is critical to containing the virus.
“We are a resource for our community and we hope people take advantage of the service,” she said. “People can get tested multiple times if they would like, particularly if they think they may have been exposed to the virus. Remember, getting tested is just a snapshot in time. Being tested repeatedly is a good thing.”
It’s a wise way to stop the spread of COVID-19, said Perez.
“It is the most selfless thing we can possibly do. You are taking care of yourself as well as taking care of the public. It is an important part of controlling this virus, along with wearing masks and social distancing. We are seeing the numbers rising and the more we can do to fight the spread in the community the better off we all will be.”
In a recent BenitoLink article, San Benito County interim Public Health Officer David Ghilarducci said he hoped a way could be found to continue testing beyond Aug. 30, but that funds may not be available. However, free appointments for COVID-19 testing are still available through LHI.Care through that date.
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