Demand for COVID-19 testing increases simultaneously as omicron variant cases

Posted at 4:01 PM, Dec 20, 2021
and last updated 2021-12-20 19:13:37-05

SAN DIEGO (KGTV) — The demand for COVID-19 testing has increased at both walk-up and drive-up locations across the region. The uptick comes as the omicron variant becomes a major concern in San Diego County.

Shayne Johnson waited an hour outside the City Heights Recreation Center Monday for a COVID-19 test ahead of a trip to the Midwest to see his folks.

"Just trying to stay ahead of it, make sure that I'm doing the right thing for my family," he said.

While 77 percent of eligible county residents are fully vaccinated -- Johnson included -- health officials are warning of a holiday surge, given that people are gathering indoors.

That's led to an increase in demand for testing - with an average of about 20,000 per day last week, according to the county.

"By testing, you're actually protecting your loved ones, especially in family gatherings," said Dr. William Tseng, assistant area medical director of Kaiser Permanente.

Tseng noted a full dose of the original COVID vaccines remains highly effective against the delta variant. But for omicron, a highly mutated form of the virus, Tseng saod it takes getting the booster for the needed immunity for the body to attack the familiar parts of the virus.

"80% remains the same, so what we're doing is we're overwhelming the virus by attacking the 80 percent, so if you have a higher level, you're going to be able to get rid of it," said Tseng.

Tseng said health officials are assuming increased transmission, meaning an increase in hospitalizations. But he added it should be nowhere near last year, when ICU available capacity dropped to 0 percent, because treatments have improved.