Pictured. Dr. Cesar Morales, Superintendent of Ventura County Office of Education with test kits being distributed to school districts. Photo submitted.
by Kimberly Rivers
Last week Ventura County began distributing COVID-19 home test kits, handing out 11,000 kits during the first two days via drive-through distribution events in Oxnard and Camarillo. But some members of the public said the process was confusing and resulted in them leaving.
“We went to try and find the end of the line . . . but they exited us out. We could never find the end of the line. It was very unorganized,” said Cheryl Rodriguez, a resident of Ventura who tried to get a home test kit on Monday, Jan. 3, because her 18-year-old son had some symptoms. “He had a cough and a chill. We were trying to get him tested so we’d know if it’s a cold or COVID.”
On Monday, Jan. 3, the county reported that a line for the Oxnard distribution event began forming an hour before the scheduled start time of 3 p.m. and members of the public reported long wait times and confusion about where the line of cars ended. At 3:37 p.m. the county issued a statement, “Today’s at-home testing distribution has been closed. Those currently in line will be able to get a test. The closure is due to limited supply and high demand.” At 4:15 p.m. a county spokesperson confirmed that kits were still being distributed to those who had waited and stayed in line.
Rodriguez drove to the location and followed a line of cars thinking she was in the correct line, only to be told by a county official that they had to exit the parking lot and get to the end of the line. But as she attempted to do that, a county vehicle was blocking the roadway where she needed to turn to apparently get to the end of the line. She, and many other cars she saw, opted to leave.
Rodriguez shared that all the stores she contacted about buying a home test kit were sold out and appointments for free state testing were fully booked for a week. She learned about the distribution of home test kits through Nextdoor on Monday just as the distribution event was scheduled to begin. She explained that it’s important for her son to be tested because she visits her 87-year-old mother every other week and wants to make sure she does not unintentionally expose her to COVID. The entire family is vaccinated but they don’t want to take any risks.
When asked about the issues Rodriguez experienced on Monday, Ashley Bautista, public information office for Ventura County, responded via email, saying, “I was at [Monday’s] distribution and EMS and Public Health did a great job of lining up thousands of cars. People showed up more than an hour before the distribution. Some people were turned away because there was more demand than supply available. [Tuesday’s] site has a larger parking area to accommodate more vehicles.”
On Monday, 5,000 test kits were distributed, and the county relocated the distribution event to Freedom Park in Camarillo for the Tuesday event to distribute 6,000 kits. County officials said the Camarillo location has a larger parking lot to accommodate more vehicles. Each kit contains two tests and a limit of two kits per household was imposed. The first allotment of tests received by the county were iHealth COVID-19 Antigen Rapid Tests, which provide results in 15 minutes. Future tests received may be different brands.
The distribution on Tuesday was slated to begin at 1 p.m., but at 12:45 p.m. the county sent out a notice that the event was “now closed due to traffic safety . . . there are more cars lined up than can be accommodated and the vehicles are impacting traffic in the area.” Another event will be scheduled and information provided when it is available.
“I’m so upset. We just wasted 1.5 hours of our time,” said Lauri Hodges, a resident of Thousand Oaks who attempted to get a home testing kit at the county’s Camarillo distribution event on Tuesday. “When we got there it was closed . . . at 1:40.” She said a police officer told her the event was canceled. “There were several cop cars blocking the entrance to the location and there was lots of traffic. So upset that we went all the way there for nothing.”
Hodges expressed frustration about the lack of testing availability in the area, saying, “It’s very paralyzing because if you need to fly or go to work or school and you need a clearance test, you can’t get in anywhere right now. All appointments are at least a week away. Everyone is booked and no one has at-home test kits. This variant, although mild, seems very contagious. It’s very frustrating.”
The number of test kits the country receives is determined by the California Department of Public Health, which is allocating test kits it receives to counties. According to Bautista, the county is working with local organizations to ensure farmworkers in Ventura County have access to home test kits.
The tests received by Ventura County are distinct from the tests being distributed through the public school system. On Jan. 6 the Ventura County Office of Education received 132,000 home test kits (each containing two tests) and stated that was enough for every child in school to receive a test. The kits were quickly distributed to school districts, with a goal of getting them out by Friday. Several districts had distribution events over the weekend.
Families of students in public schools can call their child’s school for information about on-campus testing available on a walk-up basis at no cost.
Vaccination and testing information for the general public in Ventura County is online at www.venturacountyrecovers.org.