Examination of why Bay Area COVID testing sites are struggling to keep up with demand – NBC Bay Area
Many Bay Area residents have seen firsthand how difficult it has become to schedule an appointment for a COVID test.
In the South Bay, some find that it sometimes takes days or even weeks to get an appointment. County testing sites are overwhelmed and there are concerns that not all health providers are doing their part to help meet the high demand.
“It’s getting frustrating,” said Jillian Javier, who was taking a COVID test Thursday at the Santa Clara County Fairgrounds. “But a week was the earliest appointment I could get.”
On Thursday morning, patients who tried to make an appointment with Santa Clara County received a notification that none were available.
“Oh, it’s extremely difficult,” said Kaiser Permanente patient Linda Ortega.
Oretega’s situation may help explain why sites are backed up so much. She is expected to get tested through her provider, Kaiser, but said getting an appointment was next to impossible.
“We resorted to just going to the county for the fairgrounds,” Ortega said. “I went all the way to Morgan Hill the other day just to take a test.”
The fear is that many Kaiser patients like Ortega choose County because their own provider is not doing their part. The result? An overwhelmed county testing system.
Figures obtained by NBC Bay Area show Santa Clara County is seeing 15% of patients in the area, but in the past six months it has provided more than 20% of tests.
Kaiser sees 31% of patients in Santa Clara County, but provided more than 12% of tests.
Meanwhile, the Palo Alto Medical Foundation, or Sutter Health, is seeing more than 16% of county patients but has provided just over 2% of all COVID tests.
“If I’ve been exposed, I don’t want to wait two weeks to get an appointment or even five days,” Ortega said. “I want to know now.”
In a statement, Kaiser said in part that they are grappling with overwhelming demand and are now processing 20,000 tests per day and continue to work to expand testing. (See Kaiser’s full statement at the end of this article.)
Sutter Health said its capacity was limited by high demand, but said the Palo Alto Medical Foundation has doubled appointments for tests and reminders over the past three weeks. (See Sutter Health’s full statement at the end of this article.)
Santa Clara County must now decide whether to follow San Francisco’s lead and threaten to find medical providers who fail to meet their testing responsibilities.
Kaiser Permanente issued the following statement on Thursday:
The omicron variant is spreading much faster than previous versions of this virus, and in just one month it has impacted almost every aspect of society to unprecedented levels. Kaiser Permanente and its teams are focused on testing, delivering vaccines and caring for members and people in our communities who need treatment, including hospitalization.
We are currently processing 20,000 tests per day and administering over 80,000 vaccinations each week here in Northern California, while caring for an increase in the number of patients with this virus. As part of our work to meet the increased demand for testing over the past two weeks, we have taken steps to expand our capacity, including securing more home testing kits that are so limited at the moment.
Like all organizations, we are challenged by the prevalence of this variant and its ability to infect even some fully immune people. As a result, our staffing levels are also being tested. The last 24 months of this pandemic have been an incredibly difficult and stressful time to work on the front lines of healthcare. We are extremely grateful to our frontline healthcare staff, whose commitment to providing care and services throughout the COVID-19 pandemic has been nothing short of inspiring. We would like to thank our staff, who demonstrate resilience, expertise and compassion on a daily basis. We oppose any suggestion that our frontline healthcare workers – who are at the heart of Kaiser Permanente – are not doing their part.
Kaiser Permanente is providing free diagnostic testing for COVID-19 to our members. Tests are available at most Kaiser Permanente locations. Currently, Kaiser Permanente reimburses the cost of COVID-19 diagnostic tests performed at accredited, independent external facilities such as retail outlets or private laboratories.
We continue to urge all people to get vaccinated and vaccinated against COVID-19 when eligible, and to get their flu shot. Most people with symptoms of COVID-19 can recover at home – we recommend that you stay home if you are sick, unless symptoms worsen and you need medical attention or emergency. More information on COVID-19 symptoms and care is available at kp.org.
Sutter Health issued the following statement on Thursday:
Sutter’s testing capacity is limited due to high demand. There are many options for COVID-19 testing, including licensed retail and community sites and home antigen testing. If your home antigen test is positive and you have mild or moderate symptoms, please stay home. You should assume you have COVID-19 and self-isolate per CDC guidelines. We have increased our overall testing capacity, for example in Santa Clara County, the Palo Alto Medical Foundation has doubled the availability of appointments for COVID testing and COVID reminders over the past three weeks.