The appointment-only COVID-19 testing site at the CenCal Health parking lot opened Monday.
A mobile testing unit opened at the CenCal Health facility, at 4050 Calle Real, near Santa Barbara on Monday. The testing center will likely move to a new location in two weeks, the Public Health Department said.  (Santa Barbara County Public Health Department photo)

The Public Health Department has expanded COVID-19 testing capacity to three new sites, which should significantly expand capacity and access for residents across Santa Barbara County.

So far this month, the county has been announcing about 2,300 average test results a day.

Testing is encouraged and available for people with and without symptoms, Public Health Director Van Do-Reynoso said.

“I think that anyone who has been out and about, who has come into contact, who has symptoms, who has traveled, who has engaged in gatherings with those outside of their household, essentially anyone who has been involved in activities that takes them away from their own household (should get tested),” she said.

The new mobile testing center at CenCal Health near Santa Barbara can handle 500 appointments a day, Do-Reynoso said, which is a “huge, huge expansion” of capacity.

That’s more daily tests than all three state-run community testing sites combined.

Starting Monday, the testing facility at the CenCal Health headquarters, at 4050 Calle Real, will be open on weekdays from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Appointments are free and required, and can be made on the website,, or by calling 888.634.1123, extension 8.

There is a nearby MTD bus stop at Pesetas Lane and Calle Real, which is served by Route 3 and Route 7. 

The testing unit will move to a new location – possibly Lompoc or Carpinteria – after it spends at least two weeks in Santa Barbara, Do-Reynoso said.

The appointment-only COVID-19 testing site at the CenCal Health parking lot opened Monday.

The appointment-only COVID-19 testing site at the CenCal Health parking lot opened Monday.  (Santa Barbara County Public Health Department photo)

Other new testing sites include:

» Santa Maria Health Care Center at 2115 Centerpointe Parkway, which is open Tuesday-Friday. Appointments are required and can be made online the day before each testing date.

Appointment registration is closed at 5 p.m. each day or when the slots are full, according to the Public Health Department.

» Isla Vista Theater at 960 Embarcadero del Norte, which is open on Fridays and Saturdays. This is a walk-in-only location that is open two days a week from noon to 5 p.m.

The Public Health Department website,, has more information on local testing options. 

Santa Barbara County Public Health Department  testing

(Santa Barbara County Public Health Department photo)

Residents can also call 2-1-1 to get assistance registering for test appointments, since the call center is available 24/7. 

A growing number of medical offices and pharmacies have coronavirus testing available in Santa Barbara County, Noozhawk reported in late November. 

The three state-run sites — in Goleta, Buellton and Santa Maria — are open for free COVID-19 testing to anyone, regardless of symptoms or insurance.

These tests are known as viral/PCR exams (usually done with a nasal swab), and look for an active infection of the novel coronavirus, the virus that causes COVID-19.

Antibody tests, which look for antibodies to indicate a past infection, are available at fewer locations, and are not used for medical diagnosis, according to county Public Health Department officials.

sansum COVID testing site

Registered nurse Maricela Hurtado, right, and medical assistant Leti Gutierrez administer coronavirus tests to Sansum Clinic patients who have drive-through appointments in Santa Barbara in August.  (Brooke Holland / Noozhawk file photo)

The cost of testing is not always free. It is frequently covered by health insurance, but patients should check with their insurance provider to avoid getting a surprise bill.

To find a COVID-19 testing facility near you, anywhere in California, click here to search an interactive map.

People with insurance are advised to seek out testing at an urgent care center, their primary health-care provider’s office, or the community testing sites in Goleta, Buellton or Santa Maria.

Those without a health-care provider or without insurance can seek care and testing at one of the federally qualified health centers. Click here for the list of centers.

Free testing also is available at the community testing sites.

Santa Barbara County locations offering COVID-19 testing include:

» OptumServe community testing sites in Goleta, Buellton and Santa Maria. Click here to make a free appointment online, or call 888.634.1123 x8, or call 2-1-1. Each site has capacity for about 165 tests daily, and appointments can fill up quickly. 

» Santa Barbara County Health Care Centers in Carpinteria, Santa Barbara, Lompoc and Santa Maria

» Santa Barbara Neighborhood Clinics

» Sansum Clinic offices and Urgent Care

» Goleta CVS Health drive-through tests, by appointment at the 7030 Hollister Ave. store

» American Indian Health & Services

» Some Albertsons, Safeway and Vons locations are offering at-home saliva virus tests, for $140 plus delivery

» MedCenter locations in Santa Barbara

» Some Rite Aid locations, including in Santa Maria, have drive-through tests by appointment

» Public Health testing site at 2115 Centerpointe Parkway in Santa Maria. Click here to make an appointment.

» Community Health Centers

» Central Coast Family Care Medical Associates of Santa Maria

» Dignity Health Urgent Care

» Aptitude Medical Systems has saliva testing with same-day results available at Earl Warren Showgrounds for $149.

Anyone experiencing COVID-19 symptoms should call before going to a medical office, to let staff know they are coming, and wear a face covering, according to the Public Health Department.

Symptoms include fever, cough, shortness of breath, chills, fatigue, headache, sore throat, muscle aches, congestion, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and new loss of taste or smell.

The Public Health Department novel coronavirus website,, has information about what to do if you have tested positive for COVID-19, are suspected to have COVID-19 or are identified as a contact to someone who tested positive for COVID-19.

Test results can take several days to process, and people with symptoms and/or known exposure to the virus should isolate until they receive their test results, according to public health officials.

If you have tested positive, public health officials advise you to participate in the public health contact-tracing interview; stay home except to get medical care (do not go to work, school, public areas, or use public transit); isolate yourself from people and animals in your home as much as possible; and monitor symptoms.

Anyone with symptoms who has tested positive, or suspects they have COVID-19, should isolate at home for at least 10 days after symptoms started, according to the county.

People who have tested positive but have never developed symptoms should isolate at home for 10 days after their first positive test, according to the county.

Click here for Noozhawk’s Coronavirus Crisis section.

Updated Travel Advisory for California

The California Department of Public Health updated its travel advisory last week, and tells state residents to avoid non-essential travel (including tourism and vacation) to any part of California more than 120 miles away from where they live, and to avoid traveling to other states or countries.

“Avoiding travel reduces the risk of virus transmission, including by reducing the risk that new sources of infection, and, potentially, new virus strains will be introduced to California.”

Everyone arriving in or returning to California from other states and countries should self-quarantine for 10 days after arriving, “except as necessary to meet urgent critical healthcare staffing needs or to otherwise engage in emergency response,” the advisory says.

Where to Find Vaccination Information

The Public Health Department novel coronavirus website,, has information about the vaccination distribution plan and estimated timelines.

The most commonly-asked Noozhawk reader question about the vaccines is how people will be notified that their “tier” is eligible to receive one, and where and when to get them.

As of Monday, there are no details on that for the general public, only for the current phase of vaccinations for healthcare workers, skilled nursing facilities, and emergency medical services workers. 

The Public Health Department is creating a network of vaccine providers (42 so far) and plans to hold mass vaccination clinics, Do-Reynoso said Friday.

“Currently, few details are available about registering for appointments because outreach has specifically targeted our healthcare community,” the Public Health Department said.

After several groups of people based on occupation, age and medical condition, the county expects the vaccine will start being accessible for the general public in March or April.

“The COVID-19 vaccine is one of the most important tools to end the COVID-19 pandemic, and getting Santa Barbara County’s local economy and our communities back to some level of normalcy while increasing our safety,” Public Health writes on its vaccine information page.

“A COVID-19 vaccine will reduce the number of people with COVID-19; reduce severity of illness; reduce hospitalizations; and reduce deaths. This is only the beginning and we must all continue to do our part to stay safe while until the vaccine becomes widely available.

“Stay home as much as possible. If you must leave, continue to wear a face covering and keep at least 6 feet of distance from anyone you don’t live with. Wash your hands frequently and avoid gathering with other households.”

Representatives from Santa Barbara County government, the Public Health Department, emergency medical services, local hospitals, and other institutions conduct frequent COVID-19 briefings with updates on case numbers, public health guidelines, and vaccines. 

The briefings are typically presented to the Board of Supervisors at Tuesday meetings, which can be viewed live on CSBTV Channel 20 or the county YouTube channel, and on Fridays at 4:30 p.m., which can also be viewed live through county channels. 

Noozhawk managing editor Giana Magnoli can be reached at Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

Chart on vaccination plan

(Santa Barbara County Public Health Department photo)