Medical assistant Jackie Diaz performs a COVID test at the Inspire Diagnostics site at Cabrillo College.
(Kevin Painchaud / Lookout Santa Cruz)
Health & Wellness

COVID testing update: Santa Cruz County ramps up options as demand surges, return to school imminent

Facilities in Santa Cruz and Watsonville are expanding hours and a mobile testing site is returning to Mountain Community Resources in Felton amid the ongoing Omicron surge.

As the Omicron variant of the virus that causes COVID-19 surges across California, Santa Cruz County is expanding testing this week in the face of elevated demand.

As of Monday, a mobile testing facility at Depot Park — at 119 Center St., Santa Cruz — has expanded hours from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m., Monday through Friday. Appointments can be made through LHI.

Also beginning Monday, the San Lorenzo Valley mobile testing site will return to Mountain Community Resources — 6134 Highway 9, Felton — from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Appointments can be made through LHI.

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Beginning Wednesday, the Ramsay Park site — 1301 Main St., Watsonville — will double the number of appointments available daily. Appointments can be made through LHI.

The Santa Cruz County Office of Education is also sponsoring drive-through testing for students, parents and guardians and school staff Monday through Saturday, no appointment necessary, at:

  • Santa Cruz COE Annex parking lot, 399 Encinal St., Santa Cruz; 9 a.m.-5 p.m.
  • Cabrillo College, Parking Lot K, 6500 Soquel Ave., Aptos; 9 a.m.-5 p.m.
  • Pajaro Valley Unified School District office, 294 Green Valley Rd., Watsonville; 9 a.m.-5 p.m. (CLOSED MONDAY)

Students, parents, guardians and school staff can register and find the most current testing hours here.

For those anticipating international travel, most airlines and countries accept antigen, NAAT (nucleic acid amplification test) or RT-PCR (reverse transcription polymerase chain reaction) tests. However, how soon the test results must be available prior to the flight can vary by airline and destination. Double-check that your test will be accepted within the required time frame, particularly if you have a lengthy flight.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention describes viral tests — ones that can determine a current infection — in this way:

“Viral tests use samples that come from your nose or mouth. Rapid tests can be performed in minutes and can include antigen and some NAATs. Laboratory tests can take days to complete and include RT-PCR and other types of NAATs. Some test results may need confirmatory testing.”

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Antigen tests are considered the least accurate viral test, while RT-PCRs are the most accurate, with the latter having few, if any, false positives.

Another type of test is an antibody test, defined by the CDC as:

“An antibody test (also known as a serology test) can detect antibodies to SARS-CoV-2 in your blood. Antibodies are proteins that your immune system makes to help fight infection and protect you from getting sick in the future. Antibody tests should not be used to diagnose a current infection, but may indicate if you had a past infection.”

Except for CruzMedMo, each of the testing sites below does not require out-of-pocket payment for the tests, though your insurance could be charged. CruzMedMo costs $80 for an antigen test and $225 for a PCR test. No appointments are necessary and the company says results are ready within an hour.

Additionally, Lightspeed Testing offers testing at the following locations and times. Appointments are not necessary, are free of charge and results from the antigen test are available within 30 minutes.

  • Santa Cruz Farmers Market — Wednesdays 1-4 p.m.
  • Westside Farmers Market — Saturdays 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.
  • Moe’s Alley — Fridays from 7:30 to 9:30 p.m. and during select shows

In addition, many local drugstores offer at-home tests, which cost on average $25. Though these tests are quick and generally accurate, they are not accepted for travel purposes or by most facilities requiring a recent negative test.

Finally, the table below lists additional testing resources in Santa Cruz County. Be sure to call ahead, however, as almost all require appointments.