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SLO County shifts COVID-19 testing due to delayed results and increased demand

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Demand for COVID-19 testing has many SLO County residents experiencing longer wait times for test results, leaving the county's Public Health Department waiting for information as well.

DEMAND FOR TESTS SLO County positive cases for COVID-19 increase and the demand for testing is causing longer wait times. - FILE PHOTO
  • File Photo
  • DEMAND FOR TESTS SLO County positive cases for COVID-19 increase and the demand for testing is causing longer wait times.

All commercial labs within the county are experiencing delays in reporting testing results, SLO County spokesperson Michelle Shoresman said.

Wait time differs depending on where residents get tested, according to the experience of four New Times staffers who were tested for COVID-19 at four different locations—the San Luis Obispo Vets Hall, the Ramona Garden Park Center in Grover Beach, the MedPost Urgent Care of Paso Robles, and Urgent Care of Pismo Beach. The wait for results varied between three and four days, with one individual waiting for nine days—all tested negative.

SLO County updates readyslo.org with new information on positive COVID-19 cases and respective data every business day. Shoresman said the countywide information is posted within 24 hours of the county receiving it. The county doesn't collect data on what areas of the county have higher testing rates or what facilities are behind in getting testing results back to patients, Shoresman said.

"Our local public health lab results take approximately 48 hours. Those from private labs, we estimate are taking between four to seven business days," she said.

The county's data, however, is ahead of the state's, which Shoresman said the county believes is a week behind. According to the California Department of Public Health, SLO County's case statistics on July 15 included 989 positive cases and five reported deaths, but SLO County's data that day listed 1,078 positive cases and six deaths.

The county has two locations specifically set up for testing in Grover Beach and San Luis Obispo; three pop-up testing site locations in Nipomo, Paso Robles, and Morro Bay; as well as 16 urgent care facilities in the county that offer testing services.

"There are a number of private providers that are testing, as are hospitals and the public health laboratory for their own patients and prioritized, high-risk individuals," she said.

Since the beginning of the pandemic, 28,303 individuals have been tested in SLO County, with 238 positive cases reported by the SLO Public Health Lab and 840 positive tests detected at outside labs.

According to the California Department of Public Health data, the county has a positive case rate of 114.4 cases per 100,000 residents over a 14-day period. On average, the county completed about 150 tests a day per 100,000 people over a seven-day period, according to readyslo.org.

In light of the recent increase in demand for testing, the county pulled back on who is allowed to get a COVID-19 test. Now, only high-risk individuals including those with confirmed exposure, essential or health care workers, and/or those who show symptoms can get tested.

SLO County saw a dramatic spike in positive cases over the course of the last two months. In May, there was a total of 270 confirmed cases; 86 of those were new. In June, the total positive cases rose to 611, with 341 of those cases classified as new. In July, there have so far been 467 new cases as of press time on July 15. Δ

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