San Antonians are waiting longer to get COVID-19 test results as local labs experience delays due to the sheer volume of tests being administered, officials said Friday.

Demand for COVID-19 tests has surged in recent weeks due to the spread of the highly-contagious omicron variant, which has caused another major spike in case numbers and hospitalizations in San Antonio and across the country.

At least 1,257 people were reported hospitalized with COVID-19 on Friday, nearing the all-time peak of 1,437 hospitalized in late January 2021, at the height of last winter’s surge.

And while omicron is reported to cause a milder form of the coronavirus in many people, deaths are also rising. On Friday, Metro Health reported 16 new deaths, bringing the total for the past week to 38.

The local test positivity rate has risen to 38.3%, said Mayor Ron Nirenberg at a briefing held Friday afternoon. Afterwards, Metro Health released the most recent seven-day moving average, of 6,186 cases.

In response to the heightened demand for testing in San Antonio, the city has partnered with the Texas Division of Emergency Management, opening a federal COVID-19 drive-through testing site at the Alamodome earlier this week. This is the second time in two weeks the city has announced additional testing sites.

Located in Lot C at Cherry and Montana streets, the latest site is open daily from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. until Feb. 4. Appointments are required. The site will be closed Jan. 22, 28, 29 and 30 for previously scheduled events at the Alamodome.

Officials counseled patience for San Antonians getting tested at any of the Community Labs sites, who, at least temporarily, will have to wait longer than the usual 24 to 48 hours to receive their test results, due to the sheer volume of tests the labs are administering.

Earlier this week, Community Labs paused testing at San Antonio Independent School District campuses, citing a backlog.

“We’ve got a number of testing sites throughout the community getting a lot of people tested,” said Bexar County Judge Nelson Wolff. “We’re so successful at it that there’s been somewhat of a backlog at Community Labs in terms of getting results out timely, so just know they’re working hard on that, it’s not an easy process.”

Metro Health Director Claude Jacob expressed gratitude to the Texas Division of Emergency Management’s support in standing up the latest testing site. “This added support allows the city of San Antonio to address the increased demand for testing due to the rapidly spreading omicron variant.”

Con Corazón, an organization dedicated to reducing health inequities, also opened up a new testing site Friday, at the SAISD Sports Complex next to Burbank High School. Con Corazón’s three sites focus on helping Bexar County students, school staff and family members, and are funded by the county.

Jacob encouraged residents to get vaccinated at any local pharmacy or vaccine site, and said residents who haven’t gotten their booster yet should go get it. To find a COVID-19 vaccine pop-up clinic or testing location, visit covid19.sanantonio.gov or call 311 and select option 8.

Lindsey Carnett

Lindsey Carnett is the Science & Utilities reporter for the San Antonio Report.