Large-scale COVID-19 testing sites to open at Anaheim Convention Center, O.C. fairgrounds

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Orange County plans to open two new large-scale coronavirus testing sites, including a drive-thru location slated to open Wednesday at the Anaheim Convention Center, in response to increasing demand.

An opening date for the second location, at the O.C. fairgrounds in Costa Mesa, has yet to be determined.

The Anaheim site will operate five days a week, initially aiming to test 600 to 800 people a day before ramping up to 1,200 people daily within two weeks. The location will “significantly increase” testing capacity in O.C., according to a news release from the county.

Last week, around 5,500 diagnostic tests were conducted countywide on weekdays, data from the O.C. Health Care Agency website shows.

Supervisor Doug Chaffee, whose Fourth District includes most of Anaheim, said the convention center will help serve people from both Anaheim and Santa Ana — which make up 22% of O.C.’s population but 40% of its cases.

“This is so important for Anaheim – one of the hardest hit cities in Orange County,” Chaffee said in a statement

The location will join more than 50 others in Orange County offering free testing to most or all eligible people. A list and map of testing sites are available on the O.C. Health Care Agency website.

Sites run by Orange County — including the Anaheim Convention Center location — offer testing only to O.C. residents with symptoms of the respiratory illness, which include coughing, fever and muscle or body aches.

And testing will be prioritized for different groups based on new guidelines released Tuesday by the California Department of Public Health. That means essential workers, people who’ve been in close contact with an infected person and residents and employees of congregate living facilities will be tested first.

“With the ability to test more people, the anxiety over whether it’s just a cough or flu or whether it’s COVID, can be allayed,” Supervisor Donald P. Wagner said. “The data from this new supersite will help us refine our knowledge of COVID-19 and be better prepared in Orange County.”

Anyone with insurance should contact their medical provider about testing before scheduling an appointment at the convention center, officials said, and anyone with coverage will be asked to provide their insurance information when registering.

It’s part of a push statewide to have insurance cover the cost of more testing. California ordered all public and commercial insurance plans to cover the entire cost of the tests in March.

Publicly-run sites should focus on people “who are harder to reach and at higher risk of COVID-19. That’s where we all can help,” Lourdes Castro Ramirez, secretary of the state agency that oversees testing, said in a briefing Tuesday announcing the new state guidelines.

The Anaheim Convention Center site will operate Wednesday to Sunday, from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. Those who qualify can schedule an appointment starting 8 p.m. Tuesday at occovid19.ochealthinfo.com/supersite.

As of Tuesday, Orange County had reported a total of more than 26,000 coronavirus cases and 433 deaths — with more than half of all fatalities in nursing homes, officials said.

The rate of disease transmission is rising within the county, as are hospitalizations.

Nearly 325,000 diagnostic tests had been completed countywide as of Tuesday afternoon, with 14.6% of people testing positive — up from less than 10% at the end of June.  

More information about coronavirus testing in Orange County can be found at ochealthinfo.com/covidtest.

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