With coronavirus cases on the rise and people looking to travel for the holidays, COVID testing centers are reporting long lines and wait times in the lead-up to Christmas.
Over the past week, the state of Illinois has been averaging more than 185,000 COVID tests per day, an all-time high in the face of a surge in cases likely caused by the omicron variant in the United States.
On Saturday the state set a single day record for COVID tests, with more than a quarter of a million performed in just one day.
That rapid increase in tests is causing some long lines and wait times, but it’s all worth it for people like Kayla Kennedy.
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“I have a young nephew who’s only 1 year old. We are going to see him for the holidays,” she said. “So just to be safe, we are all getting tested before we get together.”
No matter where the tests are being performed, whether at venues like Navy Pier, pharmacies like Walgreens, or hospitals, there is a significant bump in the number of tests being performed.
Amita Health says it is doing 3,000 tests per week, twice what it saw last summer, and Northwestern Medicine says that it’s seen a 23% increase in testing at its immediate care facilities.
Even at-home tests, such as ones found at pharmacies, are getting harder to come by. CNBC reported Tuesday that Walgreens is limiting customers to four at-home tests per purchase because of surging demand, and some stores are running out of the tests.
Dr. Michael Daignault, an ER physician and chief medical advisor for Reliant Health Services, says that testing is part of a critical multi-pronged approach that residents can use to stay safe during the holidays.
“Nothing is 100%, but if you add up all the layers together, including vaccination, testing and good ventilation in the places you gather, I think that’s the best thing we can do,” he said.
To address potential shortfalls in supply, President Joe Biden announced that his administration has purchased a half-billion at-home rapid COVID tests, which will be made available next month and will be sent to Americans through the mail.