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Increase in COVID-19 testing and shortage of rapid tests making it harder to get tested in Santa Barbara County

SANTA BARBARA, Calif. — The COVID-19 pandemic is in its 19th month. And testing is at a similar demand now as in the deadly third wave last winter.

Santa Barbara County Public Health officials point to an increase of the more contagious Delta variant and an increase in needing testing to go to events. They said if more people get vaccinated there will be less of a need for testing.

Matt Higgs is Santa Barbara County Public Health's epidemiology and laboratory capacity program manager. He said there's a simple solution to reduce testing, “Get vaccinated and you’ll have to get tested a lot less.”

He continued saying the current shortage is due to low new cases in May and June.

“We saw such a decrease in demand in utilization in the spring when we hit that lull,” said Higgs.

But now cases are increasing again. And workplaces and event organizers are requiring proof of negative tests.
All of that is making it harder to get a test quickly. Local drugstores are sold out and on backorder for at-home rapid COVID-19 tests.

The shortage of rapid tests is impacting the Santa Barbara Unified School District. It had to pivot from testing all staff and students to prioritizing specific groups.

Frann Wageneck is an ast. superintendent at SBUSD. She said, “Staff members who are not vaccinated. And then our children under the age of 12 who do not have the opportunity to be vaccinated. So they are the ones who are participating in surveillance testing first.”

To lower the demand at the county level public health is encouraging businesses that require testing, to get their own test supply.

“We work with those employers to get them to do more of the testing in-house," said Higgs, "which can help to relieve some of the demand off of our community testing sites.”

SBUSD hopes to get its tests, which are on backorder, in the next two weeks. The district will also host vaccine clinics on campus to reduce the need for testing and keep students in the classroom.

To schedule a test or vaccine go to the Santa Barbara County website or call 2-1-1.

Santa Barbara Unified School District will host six vaccine clinics at their schools between September 22 and October 11.

September 22, Dos Pueblos High School, 4 p.m. to 7 p.m.

September 27, La Cumbre Junior High School, 4 p.m. to 7 p.m.

September 28, Dos Pueblos High School, 6:30 a.m. to 10 a.m.

October 4, Goleta Valley Junior High School, 4 p.m. to 7 p.m.

October 5, Santa Barbara Junior High School, 4 p.m. to 7 p.m.

October 11, Santa Barbara High School, 6:30 a.m. to 10 a.m.

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Scott Sheahen

Scott Sheahen is a reporter for NewsChannel 3-12. To learn more about Scott, click here.

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