Amid sharp increases in new COVID-19 cases during this holiday season, County Health is urging residents to seek out testing and get vaccinated, especially those traveling or anticipating a return to in-person schooling.
Health officials attribute the increase to holiday gatherings and the more contagious Omicron variant. The risk of community transmission of COVID-19 is currently very high, with more than 2,000 new cases in the county this past week, including the Omicron variant.
“More people are infectious and spreading the virus indoors,” said County Deputy Health Officer Dr. Curtis Chan. “Taking these steps – limiting close contacts, wearing a mask indoors to prevent getting infected and infecting others, isolating when symptomatic, and getting tested – can reduce the likelihood of severe COVID affecting you, your family, and community.”
Testing: What is Available Where
There are two types of COVID-19 test: rapid antigen tests, which return results quickly, and polymerase chain reaction (PCR) tests, which typically return results within 72 hours although times vary depending upon demand.
The County of San Mateo offers only PCR testing at 10 sites, which it operates through contracted providers Curative and LHI/OptumServe (locations listed below). The County is not distributing rapid antigen tests to the general public or cities.
The County-supported sites account for 10 to 15 percent of testing countywide with the remainder administered through health care providers, pharmacies and other testing companies. The County sites can provide 8,100 appointments per week, with most locations able to accommodate walk-up clients. Throughout December, the County sites administered less than 4,000 tests per week but spiked to 6,324 the week of Dec. 19 and remain high this week.
Rapid antigen testing in the form of home kits may be available from health care providers and pharmacies.
Chan understands that the holidays and the surging Omicron variant have magnified testing demand and tests from health care providers and pharmacies may be hard to access during the holidays, which is why taking preventative measures is critical.
“The vaccine and booster are effective at preventing severe disease and preventing transmission of the virus,” he said. “We are grateful for everyone’s efforts to prevent transmission and outbreaks, which cause hospitalizations and deaths. If you have symptoms but can’t quickly visit a test site, you should mask and isolate yourself as much as possible. This will help prevent transmission of whichever respiratory virus you may have.”
The state of California gave County Health an initial distribution of 38,000 rapid antigen kits, which will be made available through the County Office of Education for students returning to class after the holidays. Schools serving lower-income families will be given priority.
Pediatric vaccine clinics (for children aged 5-11) at seven school sites throughout the county will be open to the public beginning on January 3. Residents can check MyTurn and the County Health’s vaccine clinic calendarfor more information.
Vaccines: Where Can I Get One?
The Event Center booster and first- and second-dose vaccine clinic for individuals 12+ will re-open on Jan. 4. The clinic is a walk-up, not drive-through, operation. Participants will park and enter Redwood Hall for the vaccination. The clinic will be open on Tuesdays (noon to 7 p.m.) and Wednesdays through Saturdays (9 a.m. to 4 p.m.). Appointments via MyTurn are preferred, but participants may also come without an appointment.
Vaccines and boosters are available at other locations throughout the county at community clinics, local pharmacies and health care providers. Find availability and appointments through MyTurn, pharmacy chain websites, and County Health’s vaccine clinic calendar.
Bottom Line: What You Should Do
Get vaccinated, including a booster shot if eligible. Wear a mask with good fit and filtration in ALL indoor public settings (including public transportation). N95 and KN95 or surgical masks do the best job filtering out viruses. Anyone feeling sick, even with mild symptoms (sore throat, cough, sniffles), should stay home, isolate from others, and get tested.
Get tested. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommend 1-3 days before a family gathering, or prior to any travel, even if you have no symptoms. Rapid antigen testing should be done 24 hours prior to a gathering or travel. PCR testing should be done within 72 hours – with results available prior to a gathering or travel.
County-operated Test Sites (also available at smcgov.org/testing)
Jefferson Union High School District (Curative)
699 Serramonte Boulevard
7 days a week, 9 a.m. – 4 p.m.
Jefferson High School (LHI/OptumServe)
6996 Mission Street
Sundays, 10 a.m. – 6 p.m.
Bayshore School (LHI/OptumServe)
155 Oriente Street
Fridays, 8 a.m. – 8 p.m.
Second & fourth Saturdays, 8 a.m. – 8 p.m.
HALF MOON BAY
Ted Adcock Community Center (LHI/OptumServe)
535 Kelly Avenue
Mondays & Fridays, 9 a.m. – 5 p.m.
Wednesdays, 8 a.m. - 8 p.m.
NORTH FAIR OAKS
Stanford Redwood City Campus Parking Lot (Curative)
Mondays through Fridays, 12 p.m. – 7 p.m.
Saturdays & Sundays, 10 a.m. – 4 p.m.
City Parking Lot (LHI/OptumServe)
1900 Francisco Boulevard
Saturdays, 8 a.m. – 8 p.m.
North Fair Oaks Library (LHI/OptumServe)
2500 Middlefield Road
Thursdays, 8 a.m. – 8 p.m.
College of San Mateo (LHI/OptumServe)
3401 College of San Mateo Drive
Mondays through Thursdays, 10 a.m. – 6 p.m.
Sundays, 10 a.m. – 6 p.m.
San Mateo Central Courthouse (LHI/OptumServe)
800 North Humboldt Street
Fridays, 10 a.m. – 6 p.m.
Bayside Academy (LHI/OptumServe)
2025 Kehoe Avenue
First, third, and fifth Saturdays, 8 a.m. – 8 p.m.