HENRICO COUNTY, Va. (WRIC)– A surge in COVID-19 cases coupled with a nation and statewide testing shortage has people scrambling for testing opportunities.
The Virginia Department of Health held a testing site at the Eastern Henrico Recreation Center Wednesday. Dr. Melissa Viray, Deputy Director for the Richmond and Henrico Health District, said the center tested over 500 people.
“We have an unprecedented case burden in terms of omicron cases going absolutely through the roof,” she said.
Some were turned away from the line, according to Dominant Turner who received a COVID-19 test.
“They came to the back and told people that they weren’t going to have tests for them, or there wasn’t going to be enough time for them,” he said.
Dr. Viray said she didn’t have the number of how many people were turned away Wednesday. The state has been preparing for a surge in cases in the wintertime, but holiday travel and new guidelines urging people to get tested have resulted in a limited number of tests available.
“All of these things together upended or outperformed what we had available,” she said.
Tahairah Turner said she and her family waited hours for a COVID test.
“It was a long line of people waiting,” she said. “Worth the wait though, because it was very smooth.”
Turner’s family members are experiencing COVID-19 symptoms after the holidays so her father, Milton Turner, wanted to be safe.
“My wife usually tests at Walgreens during the week and they didn’t have any appointments available, so she’s starting to run into those problems with more people testing,” he said.
The VDH reported that almost the entire state, including the Richmond and Henrico and Crater Health Districts, are seeing a surge in cases driven by the omicron variant. The department added they tested 842 people this week and will launch more testing sites next week to keep up with the demand.
“Whatever we have and whatever we’re able to bring out into the community, we have pushed out into the community as we’ve gotten them,” Viray said. “As we’ve gotten more, we pushed that out as well to try and keep up for as much as we can to help people make safe decisions.”
Dr. Viray said the long lines are indicative of people wanting to keep healthy — and Turner agreed.
“Tomorrow we’re getting 70 degrees. The weather can affect people’s allergies and we’re confusing it by saying ‘Hey well it’s COVID,’ but to be on the safe side go get tested for peace of mind,” he said.
8News Producer Julia Heimlich captured videos of long lines outside of testing sites in Richmond and Chesterfield County. The first video shows cars lined up outside of the Urgent Care in Richmond at 8 a.m. for a COVID-19 test. The second video shows people standing in line for a test at the Chesterfield Faith and Family Community Church. The video was taken about an hour and a half before the testing center opened for the day.