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COVID: Surge In Cases Creates High Demand, Longer Lines At Test Sites In San Francisco

SAN FRANCISCO (KPIX) -- With COVID cases spiking due to the new Delta variant, more people want to know if they are sick. Health officials are keeping close watch on access to testing in San Francisco.

So far, there's no commitment by the city on how many testing sites could be expanded. At the city's test site on Alemany Boulevard Tuesday, people waiting to get tested say the lines are getting longer.

"We have the vaccine and we're back to hundreds of people trying to get tested again," said San Francisco resident Jennie Watkins.

A notice popped up on the county's health department website, listing testing locations, stating "appointments are extremely limited."

"We expect testing demand to increase like it did for the fall and winter surge," said Dr. Grant Colfax of the San Francisco Department of Health.

"Having to make an appointment and drive all the way here, sit in line, and in my car is like the very beginning before we had vaccines," said Watkins.

The number of daily tests in San Francisco is about half of what it was during the winter peak with more than 9,400 a day.

After bottoming out in June, there was a near vertical climb, and significantly higher demand at the end of July.

"I'm hoping to mitigate some of the wait times. I expect unfortunately to continue to go up because we were down to fewer than 2000 tests not too long ago, now we're at 5000. If we expand up to 7 or 9 a day then we're going to continue to need to expand," said Colfax.

For now, there's no concrete commitment to expand hours or sites.

The focus is on vaccination efforts and mobile clinics, like one KPIX visited in the Fillmore District on Tuesday, reaching out to make it easier for the unvaccinated to get a shot.

San Francisco is launching a new program that will bring a mobile vax clinic to residents. It's the city's latest effort to make it easier to get a vaccine.

Mobile clinics operating since February have administered an estimated 6,000 doses at 350 events.

Brain Branch finally decided to get inoculated at the Fillmore pop-up.

"With the Delta strain coming and the monster's here, why prolong it?" asked Branch

"The mobile team basically goes into the communities where people really need the vaccine to come to them and are unable to go to community sites, neighborhood, or mass vax sites when we had them," said Mary Law with the San Francisco Department of Health.

Starting Tuesday, the clinic will go directly to any group of 5 to 12 people that want to get the vaccine at their homes or workplace by contacting the San Francisco Department of Public Health.

"We are tired of all the rules and regulations and being told what to do. Just because we're sick of it doesn't mean it's sick of us. It's not gone because we want it to be gone. So what this means is we have to do even more," said San Francisco Mayor London Breed.

For Angelique Thomas and her Max the Vax crew, they're pushing just like city officials to get more people vaccinated.

"I don't necessarily try to convince people. I try to inform people. It's giving them information they don't have provided to them," said Thomas.

Hospitalizations are ten times greater than they were in May according to SFDPH data.

But that number, sitting at around 90 on Tuesday, is still less than half of what it was during the winter peak.

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