The first day of community COVID-19 testing in Santa Barbara County drew residents from as far as Santa Barbara and southern San Luis Obispo County to the Santa Maria Fairpark Convention Center for a free, 5-minute nasal swab test through federal health service OptumServe.
The Fairpark testing site is the first of three OptumServe testing locations to be established, with locations in Lompoc and Santa Barbara expected to be announced and opened later this week.
All 132 appointments were completely booked for Tuesday, with Wednesday filled as well, and appointment slots were beginning to fill for the rest of the week, according to public health officials.
Santa Maria resident Teri Gray said she is happy to see testing being expanded in the county, and after taking into consideration her and her husband's age along with her underlying medical conditions, they decided to schedule an appointment for Tuesday.
Testing is available to all individuals by appointment but prioritized to first responders, those with one or more symptoms of the virus and higher-risk individuals, including those over 65 and those with chronic medical conditions.
"This is our first time without medical insurance. That’s another reason we came today," Gray said.
OptumServe's nasal swab tests are being performed at other testing sites throughout the state, including in neighboring San Luis Obispo and Ventura counties.
Jackie Ruiz, spokeswoman for the Santa Barbara County Public Health Department, said individuals do not have to go to a site within their own county and may be scheduled for testing in another county if the location is more convenient.
"The state-run testing sites are open to all Californians," Ruiz said. "OptumServe will direct folks to their nearest location regardless of county of residence. Some of our South County residents are being directed to Ventura County at this time if that is the closest location to their home."
Arroyo Grande couple Christine and Robert Deming, along with Christine's brother Mike Murphy, said they all made testing appointments together and were scheduled for testing in Santa Maria.
Laura Place covers city government for the Santa Maria Times.
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