STOCKTON, California — The highly contagious omicron COVID variant has led to extraordinarily long lines at testing sites throughout San Joaquin County.
"Omicron is extremely, extremely contagious, probably one of the most contagious of all the variants," said Dr. Freddie RayRay, a Critical Care Pharmacist and Stockton transplant now working in an East Bay hospital COVID ICU.
At the Edison High School COVID testing site on Turnpike Road near Downtown Stockton, dozens of cars waited more than three hours to be tested.
Those administering the tests say the surge in testing has continued to soar after the holidays.
200 to 250 tests are conducted each day beginning at 8 a.m.
When testing is over at 4 p.m., many cars in line have to be turned away. There were also reports of long lines at other sites like DeBenedetti Park in Lodi.
17-year-old Omar Gonzalez says he wanted to do the right thing and be tested. He was in line for more than three hours as cars snaked around the corner in front of Huerta Elementary School.
"I just want to make sure my health and the health of others is not at risk," said Gonzalez. "We've been calling everywhere since like two days ago looking for tests, and Edison is fortunate to have a testing site open today."
Spiking COVID numbers tell the story as to why there are long lines. In the week ending 2021, there were 30 deaths in San Joaquin County. The week before that 14 people lost their lives to COVID. In the same two-week span, cases rose more than 30%.
Hospitalizations have also doubled in less than two weeks.
"The difference between the omicron variant now and delta is that a lot of our health care workers are having to call in sick this time around which is something we maybe didn't have to face with delta as much," said Dr. RayRay.
Dr. Rayray's advice to others is simple, get vaccinated and get boosted.
He also recommends wearing a KN95 surgical mask and not a cloth mask.
In Stanislaus County, health officials say "COVID-19 cases in Stanislaus County have increased rapidly since Christmas Eve." They say the most significant increase has been those between the ages of 18-34.
The Stanislaus County Health Services Agency recommends getting vaccinated by signing up at myturn.ca.gov.
For testing locations in San Joaquin County go to sjready.org.
For testing locations in Stanislaus County go to schsa.org.