by Photo courtesy of San Diego County

The number of COVID-19 cases continues to rise after the holiday celebrations as county health officials report 8,204 new cases as of Tuesday and eight additional deaths. 

County health officials urge residents to not visit local emergency departments for COVID-19 testing unless they are experiencing severe symptoms. The post-holiday surge of COVID-19 cases is causing hospitals countywide to experience staff shortages, and are preserving their resources for patients who are seriously ill.

“Do not go to an emergency department just to get tested, and only go when you have symptoms that need emergency care,” said Cameron Kaiser, M.D., M.P.H., County deputy public health officer. “If you’re experiencing no COVID-19 symptoms, have a mild illness, or have not been exposed to someone who tested positive, go to one of the many testing locations available in the region.”

On Tuesday, Scripps Health said its Chula Vista location was operating in near disaster levels. Hospital officials said they had not seen the situation worsen on Wednesday, but there were still significant concerns. 

As of Tuesday, COVID-19 related local hospitalizations reached 750, which is nearly 300 more than the 454 reported one week ago. 

Recent figures from the past week show a total of 45,017 cases reported, which brings the region's cumulative total to 465,607 since the start of the pandemic. The county’s weekly report showed daily new cases escalated to 8,204 on Tuesday, nearly reaching Sunday's set record of 8,313 cases. 

With high levels of coronavirus transmission, health officials announced extending the mask mandate at least through Feb.15. The mandate was reimposed on Dec.15 and was said to be re-evaluated on Jan.15. 

Members of the public are urged to continue testing, getting vaccinated, and boosted if they haven’t to lessen the chances of hospitalization. The recent surge also spiked the number of individuals testing throughout the county. 

Recent figures show 24,730 reported tests as of Tuesday, and the percentage of new positive cases was 33.2 percent. However, county health officials warn of fake “pop-up” sites offering free testing.

No information surrounding exact locations was made readily available. According to county health officials, all legitimate COVID-19 testing sites should be able to show their medical credentials upon request, inform which laboratory test is being used, where the tests will be run, and how the results will be reported. 

Testing sites may not be legitimate if they ask for Social Security numbers, use written materials without a logo or operate from a sidewalk and are not affiliated with a known medical provider. 

“San Diegans should be wary as some pop-up sites could be personal information scams. If you have doubts, go to a County or community pharmacy COVID-19 testing site,” Kaiser said.

San Diego County has a network of no-cost testing public sites that are both walk-up and can take appointments. These testing sites have the cumulative capacity to perform about 45,000 tests daily. Rapid antigen tests, which are available at many local pharmacies, are a good option if a testing site is unavailable. Those who test positive on a rapid should follow the healthcare guidance and generally do not need a confirmatory PCR test unless instructed by a doctor.

“Currently, there is a high demand for COVID-19 testing so we’re asking San Diegans to be patient as testing traffic can surge and sites can be very busy,” Kaiser said.

People may schedule an appointment or find a nearby site by calling (833) 422-4255 or visiting the MyTurn or website. 

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