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Hundreds showed up to receive free COVID-19 test kits outside National City Public Library, underscoring struggle to find tests

The 1,000 test kit distribution provided some relief from long lines and hard to come by COVID tests in San Diego County.

NATIONAL CITY, Calif. — Car after car showed up to receive a free COVID-19 test kit outside the National City Public Library early Tuesday.

“It’s a matter of life of death for a person to be waiting here at 5:30 in the morning to get two tests you know per box. The need is great especially in communities like National City,” said National City Mayor Alejandra Sotelo-Solis.

In less than an hour of the giveaway, tests in the walk-up line were already gone, bringing one woman to tears, who says her daughter is in desperate need of a COVID test.

It wasn't long before the mayor of National City gave the woman a COVID test saying, “Don't cry, you got this.”

Mayor Alejandra Sotelo-Solis says the emotional response underscores the dire need to increase testing availability.

"We got to be able to provide resources for those families, and there is more than just that example,” Sotelo-Solis said.

Hundreds of people showed up to pick up a test that National City received from San Diego County Public Health and its local libraries. All 1,000 self-test kits were gone in under two hours, the event, which was scheduled from 7:30 a.m. until noon ended at 9:30 a.m. as volunteers from the Alpha Phi Omega Alumni Association Chapter of San Diego began turning cars away that kept coming.

UPDATE - COVID-19 At-Home Rapid Kits are ALL OUT! At this time we don’t know if more kits will become available from the...

Posted by City of National City- Government on Tuesday, January 4, 2022

School students and staff in the South Bay will have two free testing and vaccination events on Wednesday and Thursday:

  • Wednesday, January 5th 6:30 a.m. - 12:30 p.m. at El Toyon school auditorium
  • Thursday, January 6th Noon - 6 p.m. at Lincoln Acres auditorium

The wait to get a COVID test at pharmacies, hospitals and county sites is long and not expected to shorten anytime soon.

As COVID cases continue to rise, more people are getting tested for various health and work reasons.

Others are becoming what the county calls "Frequent Fliers" causing long lines at testing locations and a lack of available appointments.

Long lines for free COVID testing were seen this week in the North County at CSU-San Marcos, in East County in La Mesa at Kaiser, in the South Bay at the Otay Ranch Mall and at City Heights Recreation Center.

“Just to make sure to be careful about my coworkers and family,” said a man waiting in line at the City Heights Recreation Center.

The county reports they have 24 free testing sites that perform a total of 5,500 PCR tests per day county-wide.

“We are trying to encourage folks, [but] we have folks who are coming every single day to get tested. You don't have to come every single day to get tested,” said Chairman Nathan Fletcher, San Diego County Board of Supervisors.

Fletcher said the county-run sites only make up 10% of the testing sites throughout the county.

“We encourage people: don’t go to the ER but call your primary care physician. Pharmacies, CVS, Rite Aid, and others have the testing capacity,” said Fletcher.

All across the county, people have been going to the ER to get tested.

The delay in testing kits in public schools caused many parents to show up at Rady Children's Hospital.

“We are seeing increased visits to the emergency department for families who are concerned about possible COVID exposure or COVID-like symptoms,” said Dr. Scott Herskovitz, Clinical Director of Rady Children’s Hospital Pediatric Emergency Department.

He said as more people show up to the ER it is causing more time to triage what child needs immediate care.

The hospital is telling people to not visit Rady’s emergency room or urgent care centers for COVID testing or mild symptoms.

“Coming to the emergency department incurs a risk. It incurs a risk to infection and at the same time there is a cost that comes along with the emergency department that we don't want families to feel the burden of if they don't have to,” said Herskovitz.

The problem is for many, tests are hard to come by no matter where you look and often a long wait.

As of Monday, the soonest you could get an appointment at COVIDClinic.org was eight days out.

On the San Diego County testing website, you couldn't find an appointment on Monday for the next three days, which is how far you can schedule out with the county. There are walk-in locations but there are long lines.

Others are finding it easy to get a test.

“If we could do 100,000 tests a day we would do 100,000 tests a day. We're literally doing everything we possibly can as is everyone in the healthcare system,” said Fletcher.

The chairman said the county doesn't plan to add additional sites but expand capacity at each site.

The National City Library free at-home tests distribution is on Tuesday from 8 a.m. to noon on a first-come, first-served basis. The library is located at 1401 National City Blvd.

WATCH RELATED: Differing COVID test requirements spur confusion. Here's what to know for California (Jan 2022)

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