New Bay Area COVID-19 Test Sites Open as Demand Increases

Despite warnings, many still are using tests as a gauge for attending holiday gatherings

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As the latest coronavirus surge continues in the Bay Area, many people are turning to testing -- not only those who feel sick but also those who want to see if they're in the clear to celebrate New Year's Eve with family and friends.

A new pop-up, self-testing site is scheduled to open Tuesday morning at the Mitchell Park Library in Palo Alto. Starting at 10 a.m., people can show up for a free test they administer themselves under the supervision of a trained observer.

The Palo Alto testing site, one of a number of sites launching this week, gets results within 24 to 48 hours, except during high demand. And there is a lot of demand this week.

Bay Area hosptials are seeing a surge in patients who were likely exposed over Thanksgiving, pushing intensive care units to the brink. And whole many people are counting on testing to feel safe to gather with friends and family for New Year’s celebrations, doctors repeatedly have stressed that strategy is flawed.

"There is an incubation period, and there are these superspreader events, and there are asymptomatic people that can spread it too," pulmonologist Dr. Peter Chen said. "We don’t know what the peak’s going to be, and we’re already overwhelmed with the number of patients coming in."

Meanwhile, public health leaders and other first responders are reminding people that the emergency room is for emergencies and shouldn’t be used as a testing site.

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