First published in the Santa Barbara Independent on February 6, 2022.
Demand Outstrips Availability Within Hours
Cars lined up all the way down South Kellogg Avenue on a bright Saturday morning, causing such a crowd that the City of Goleta opened its COVID-19 test kit distribution site 45 minutes early.
With dozens of volunteers pitching in, the city gave away 10,000 rapid tests it had received from Santa Barbara County Public Health in the space of three and a half hours. Mayor Paula Perotte and Councilmember Kyle Richards took part, as did Councilmember James Kyriaco, who was captured on video waving cars into the parking lot at the West Wind Drive-In, which volunteered the space for the distribution.
As the pandemic wears on, anyone with symptoms like sore throat, cough, or sniffles must often verify if it’s caused by COVID or not before thinking of going to school or work. The Omicron variant has proved to be so contagious that the demand for testing and kits was at a crisis level in January. The 500 million kits President Biden ordered in late December are only now reaching the public, and four free tests can still be sent to homes by filling out a short form at covidtests.gov.
The Goleta distribution was to begin at 10 a.m. on February 5 and last through 3:30 p.m., but by 9:15 that morning, the lineup of cars had grown so long that the city decided to get the queue moving. Hundreds of cars and the occasional bicycle snaked through the drive-in theater and out again, with each receiving three boxes of the QuickVue antigen test. According to the Mayo Clinic, a positive result on an antigen test is reliable if all the instructions are followed. But compared to the gold standard PCR test, they have a chance of returning a false negative; Mayo recommends consultation with a doctor to determine if a PCR test should also be done.
Michael Baris, who coordinates Goleta’s emergency services, thanked the public for participating and his volunteers, including the Food Bank of Santa Barbara County, which helped with the logistics of the quickly organized event.