Santa Clara County to test 5,000 daily at fairgrounds for COVID-19
The Santa Clara County Fairgrounds offers COVID-19 tests. File photo by Katie Lauer.

Santa Clara County opened a new drive-through COVID-19 site at the County Fairgrounds with the aim of testing 5,000 people a day — the largest in the Bay Area.

Announced Aug. 18, the appointment-only, high-capacity location is expected to complete 1,000 daily tests by the end of this week and continue to expand. Tests are free and insurance is not required.

Cars, bikes and pedestrians are all welcome. The expected wait time is 15 minutes from start to finish. Officials said this set-up will be crucial not only for testing but also in protecting residents during flu season and preparing for the “dream” of a COVID-19 vaccine.

Allison Greenlee of Los Gatos gets a COVID-19 test Tuesday in the Santa Clara County Fairgrounds’ bike lane. Photo by Katie Lauer.

Staff will be onsite Tuesday through Saturday, with appointments available later in the day for those who need to get tested after work.

Because this is not a walk-up site, people with symptoms or high-risk individuals are welcome. Dr. Jennifer Tong, Valley Medical Center’s associate chief medical officer, recommended getting tested by personal physicians if possible.

The Santa Clara County health department currently accounts for 40% of testing occurring countywide, according to Dr. Marty Fenstersheib, the COVID-19 testing officer, and the turnaround time for results is averaging three days, thanks to contracts with multiple labs in California.

Dr. Marty Fenstersheib, the county’s COVID-19 testing officer, said the turnaround time for results is averaging three days. Photo by Katie Lauer.

Despite the increased testing, frustration remains high.

Cindy Chavez, Board of Supervisors president, said the numbers are still surging, now averaging 275 new cases and 175 hospitalizations daily.

“The solution to this crisis is in our hands; there is no cavalry, it’s us,” Chavez said. “If we don’t act, we could see another year of children not in school, another year of mental health issues, another year of economic devastation.”

Dr. Sara Cody, health officer and director of public health, doubled down on that warning.

“We started here as really ground zero for COVID in the United States, and six months in we’re still fighting,” Cody said. “The reason we’re still fighting is because we didn’t have the tools to get us out.”

While Cody believes politicians, executive staff and county resources have done everything in their power every day since March, she said those efforts are nothing by themselves.

“What is frustrating to me is that we did not have to be here. We could have been done and we’re not. We have more cases than ever,” Cody told San José Spotlight. “We absolutely cannot do it alone, but we can do everything we can, and this is the best thing we’ve done in a while.”

Contact Katie Lauer at [email protected] or follow @_katielauer on Twitter.

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