Santa Barbara County's COVID mobile testing site is parked at East Beach for a couple of weeks. | Credit: Courtesy

The usual COVID symptoms don’t even have to be present for a person to have the virus, and about half the people who test positive have no symptoms, Dr. Henning Ansorg said recently. But testing remains an important statistic in the state’s reopening criteria, helping Santa Barbara County reach the red tier yesterday. To make the test more convenient, a mobile testing site parked at East Beach on Monday.

COVID symptoms include the loss of smell or taste, stomach cramp, fever, coughing, and fatigue, none of which were exhibited by Jesse Lanzon or his three little boys, who visited the county’s testing bus today. Lanzon said they were planning to visit grandparents who hadn’t been vaccinated yet, and he wanted to make sure his family was clear of the virus. Afterward, they all headed for the sand.

Dr. Ansorg, the county’s health officer, noted that a person’s highest viral load occurs about two days before they feel symptoms, which is a good reason to wear face coverings and keep a distance from other people. Testing can give an early warning that someone is carrying the virus and help prevent the spread among family, friends, and colleagues. Testing can be part of planning for a trip and visiting people outside your household, he said.

One factoid coming out in recent studies that makes masks necessary, or a very good idea if you want to stay healthy, is that some coronavirus mutations making their way around the world create as much as double the viral load in the nose. Even after being vaccinated, a person breathing in a virus could exhale or sneeze it out, possibly contaminating others who are not wearing masks.

The county’s mobile testing bus, which is sponsored by the state, has traveled from Santa Maria to Carpinteria and is now in the lot near the Bathhouse, at 1118 East Cabrillo Boulevard, for about two weeks. Testing is by appointment only, which can be made at or by calling 2-1-1 for help.

Other test sites across the county can be found at Public Health’s testing page here. Most require appointments, but walk-ins are taken in Isla Vista on Friday and Saturday afternoons, and at Santa Maria on Saturdays.

Also newly open for COVID tests are the urgent care centers operated by Cottage Health in the tri-counties. Three are in Santa Barbara County, in Goleta, Buellton, and Santa Maria. Tests are by appointment and taken while the patient is in their vehicle; results are returned in 45 minutes.


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