The number of COVID cases has been increasing fast, apparently due to the Omicron strain found last November in California. Officials expect it will ease soon.
The surge of COVID infections in the state has pushed the demand for rapid test kits that cannot be found in many places. Some counties have halted their mail-in testing programs due to soaring demand. In places where tests are available, people sometimes have to wait for hours.
According to official numbers, confirmed cases have increased five times in the last two weeks and hospitalizations have doubled.
Los Angeles County Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer said last week, “My hope is that, you know, by the time we get to February, we’re on the downside of seeing that massive amount of community transmission.”
The high demand of testing is due to the Omicron strain, which—according to officials—spreads more easily than others.
Sacramento County Public Health’s Liz Gomez said, “We are seeing significant demands and we are seeing wait time ranging from 1-3 hours.”
She added that “In three days, this week, we did as many tests as we did in five days last week. Last week, we did 50% more tests than two weeks prior. We expect to do over 15,000 tests this week.”
Since Christmas, more than 5,000 Californian people have been admitted to hospitals with COVID-19, according to the Associated Press, which also reported that many went in for something else before learning they were infected upon testing.
Also, schools were forced to shut down and thousands of police, firefighters, teachers and health care workers were quarantined or absent due to COVID, as reported by KCRA3.
On Friday, Gov. Gavin Newsom announced that he is activating the California National Guard to add testing sites and boost capacity, with more than 200 guard members being deployed to 50 sites to help with clinical staffing and crowd control.
To battle the Omicron variant, which has overtaken California, the governor on Sunday asked the state’s legislature for $2.7 billion to pay for increased testing, vaccination efforts and support for hospitals, according to Fox40.
The package would include $1.2 billion to boost testing, including millions of antigen tests for local health departments, schools and community clinics.