Health experts criticize California's COVID-19 testing capacity ahead of holidays

SAN FRANCISCO -- Epidemiologists at the Brown School of Public Health are criticizing that California's testing capacity is far from where it needs to be to prevent major outbreaks ahead of the holidays.

"It's really important that we get tested," said Ananda Wolchock. "We don't want our family at risk."

Wolchock and her husband, Jared Semik are longing for the holidays.

Both of them lost their fathers' during the pandemic - a mere week apart.

"It's been incredibly hard mourning without our families," she said.

Days after Ananda was hit in a motorcycle accident.

"It's been one tough event after the next," Semik said. "I mean all of that, and then I lost my primary job and everything with my business dissolved."

A tough end to 2020 as the two are now anxious to travel home.

"It's really important we get tested because his grandmother is 84, and has a lot of health issues that make COVID really dangerous," said Wolchock.

Even planning a month ahead - there's a wait.

Our sister station, KGO-TV's data analysis shows in nearly the past month COVID testing in California has increased by nearly 200,000 more tests per week.

National consumer advocacy group, CALPIRG says that's not nearly enough to catch isolated cases before they could turn into major outbreaks around the holidays.

"I know that the governor recently announced more tests will be coming online soon and that's a good step forward but clearly we need more," said Matthew Wellington, Public Health Campaigns Director for US PIRG.

RELATED: CA to receive 11.9 million rapid COVID-19 tests from federal government

The Brown School of Public Health calculated the level of testing needed that would effectively suppress the virus is 8 times more than what California is reporting now.

Reporter: "What would you tell families who are weighing whether or not to travel during the holidays?"

Matthew: "It really depends on three key things if we're able to gather in a safer way. The first and foremost is lowering our case levels now, cases are going up, that means it's not safe to get together with people outside your immediate household."
On Friday, COVID cases went from 3,707 to 6,141 -- that's the highest daily total seen across the state since August.

"This is the time to really be on guard," said UCSF lead epidemiologist Dr. George Rutherford.

RELATED: COVID-19 Holiday Risk Calculator

"Unfortunately this is the time of holidays, family reunions, parties," said Rutherford. "Unfortunately, the advice is just don't do it."

Rutherford advises keep gatherings to immediate family, wear masks, and keep a social distance.

Wolchock and Semik agree, as they know grieving through loss, it's not worth the risk.

"Asymptomatic spread is real," said Wolchock.
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