(Photo illustration by Fernando Zhiminaicela/Pixabay)

COVID-19 testing capacity at the Santa Clara County Fairgrounds will be doubled over the next month to accommodate the county’s recent rise in coronavirus cases and hospitalizations, the county said Friday.

The fairgrounds testing facility, which can accommodate up to 2,500 testing appointments per day, will be ramped up to 3,000 appointments next week and 5,000 by mid-December, according to the county.

The push to increase the county’s testing capacity comes as Santa Clara County’s test positivity rate has doubled since late October, when it sat around 1.7 percent.

Until the beginning of November, the county’s rate of positive cases hadn’t been above 3 percent since the end of August.

Dr. Marty Fenstersheib, the county’s COVID-19 testing officer, urged residents to get tested for the virus regardless of symptoms.

“A negative result does not mean someone has a pass to put themselves and others at risk,” Fenstersheib said. “People who test negative can still be carriers of the virus but be in an early stage of infection.”

Fenstersheib also cautioned residents to avoid traveling or gathering for upcoming holidays like Thanksgiving.

Residents can make an appointment for a free COVID-19 test at one of the county’s testing sites at sccfreetest.org. Residents can get tested regardless of immigration or health insurance status.

While county-run facilities will be closed on Thanksgiving, tests will be conducted at the fairgrounds as well as in San Jose, Sunnyvale, Gilroy and Morgan Hill throughout next week.