San Francisco health department to reduce COVID testing site hours due to staffing shortages

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- With the omicron variant surging, experts say the demand for COVID testing has never more important. But one Bay Area city says it's being forced to scale back testing appointments during this critical time.

Lines for COVID testing are long no matter where you are in the Bay Area from Santa Rosa to Antioch, where California National Guard troops are now assisting at this testing site.

We're here support whatever they need, it's a good thing," Sergeant Victor Del Real from The California National Guard.

In San Francisco, there was a long line on Sunday for testing at school district headquarters, stretching around the block. Some parents waited two hours.

RELATED: Some Bay Area families wait 7+ hours for PCR COVID testing

"With omicron on the rise, it's important to get tested," said Lowell High School senior Stefanie Garcia.

SFUSD says it's given 11,000 rapid tests in the past week and distributed 57,000 home test kits.

It's great they're doing these test sites, lines are long but people are being diligent about getting tested," said parent Liz Maino.

Even a member of the ABC7 News vaccine team, Dr. Alok Patel was recently challenged finding a test after having a possible COVID exposure.

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"I tested multiple days negative on a rapid antigen but wanted to confirm with PCR test and I had to go through my doctor and wait over an hour in line, this is not a luxury everyone has," said Patel.

The San Francisco Department of Public Health now warns of testing site slow-downs next week. It tweeted:

"On Monday, some SFDPH affiliated sites will temporarily reduce testing hours due to challenges beyond our control. Please Check your health system first for testing, Do not go to the ER for tests."



San Francisco Supervisor Matt Haney calls that unacceptable.

"This is something we should be prepared for, we should have back-up plans," said Haney.

RELATED: SFFD urges public to avoid calling 911 for non-emergencies amid staff shortages

Haney says the Public Health Department told him some COVID testing sites are experiencing staffing shortages at a time when COVID is surging.

"From day to day testing capacity is slashed during the biggest surge ever in the pandemic, so we need more answers, more oversight and accountability," he said.

Haney says he'll call a hearing next week to discuss solutions about keeping testing sites open, even expanding capacity.

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