SAN JOSE (CBS SF) - Santa Clara County opened a new COVID-19 testing site Tuesday at the Santa Clara County Fairgrounds in San Jose that will be able to test 1,000 people daily by the end of the week. It will have the ability to expand up to 5,000 tests per day - making it the largest test site in the Bay Area.
Still seeing some 275 positive tests a day, Santa Clara County is aiming to expand its testing capacity with the region's first large-scale testing site.
"We started here as really ground zero for COVID in the United States. And six months in, we're still fighting," said Santa Clara County Health officer Dr. Sarah Cody.
They were still painting stripes on the ground Tuesday morning, but cars were lined up when the gates opened at noon.
"Probably at 500 today; 1,000 by the end of the week," explained county testing director Marty Fenstersheib. "5,000 down the road a little bit."
"And not only will we be providing COVID tests, but we anticipate that in the future we will also be able to provide flu shots, which will be incredibly important for protecting all of us this fall and winter, as well as our dream of a COVID vaccine," Cody said. "This is a place where we could do that too."
The new site is by appointment only, but free testing is available to everyone.
The site will be run by Valley Medical Center and offers language services such as Spanish-speaking staff, and lanes dedicated to those who may need language assistance.
The fairgrounds site will also be used for large-scale flu shots in the fall and a COVID-19 vaccine site for when it becomes available, officials said.
"This testing site has tremendous potential for our residents in one-stop," said Board of Supervisors President Cindy Chavez. "Should a COVID-19 vaccine become available in the future, the county will need large service centers such as this to administer the vaccine. I'm very pleased to see this facility is in a central location serving residents countywide."
Currently there are 10 lanes that will be open, but that is expected to increase. Most will be used for drive-thru vehicle traffic, but some lanes will be dedicated to walk-up and bicycle traffic as well.
"Testing continues to be one of the most important tools we have to protect our community from COVID-19 and to identify the harder hit sectors of our society," said Cody.
The drive-thru testing site will be suitable for residents who show symptoms or are asymptomatic.
Residents can even ride through on a bicycle. The turnaround for test results is quicker than many test sites.
"Three to five days," said a cyclist who showed up for a test. "I'll get a phone call if I'm positive."
The goal is to test bigger numbers through more convenience and ultimately find a way out of the coronavirus crisis.
"That is how we are going to get out of this," Cody said. "That is how we are going to get our businesses back to work, and that is how we are going to get our kids back in school and learning."
The county also has more than 50 COVID-19 testing locations that rotate daily among different cities.
County testing sites are open to all residents regardless of insurance or immigration status. They do not require a doctor's note or payment, but some may require an appointment.
To find testing sites in the county, visit the Santa Clara County Health website.
© Copyright 2020 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. Bay City News Service contributed to this report.
for more features.