Chicago Coronavirus

Demand For COVID-19 Tests Skyrockets in August, Data Shows

Health clinics are hiring more staff and extending hours after a spike in demand

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Rising COVID-19 cases are putting a strain on testing centers in Illinois as patients claw to get an appointment.

Pierce Howard and Hannah Loessberg said they’ve waited hours to get a COVID-19 test in the recent summer heat.

“We, one time, had to wait two hours in this super long line down the street,” said Howard.

Both found a free walk-in testing site near Navy Pier, but said finding a walk-in testing center is surprisingly difficult.

“You either wait in a big room for a long time or in your car for a couple of hours,” said Loessberg. “There’s nothing really in-between.”

Innovative Express Care-Diversey in Chicago's Lincoln Park neighborhood is halting walk-in appointments because of the high demand.

In June, the facility was seeing around 70 patients per day. Fast forward to August, a spokeswoman said that number has skyrocketed to an average of 850 patients per day.

The uptick in testing demand has forced Physician’s Immediate Care to hire more staff, adjust staff schedules and extend hours.

Stan Blaylock, the facility's CEO overseeing 51 of its clinics, said some locations are seeing more than 100 patients per day.

“We’ve probably seen our wait times go up 40% or 50% in some places. We really had an average visit time below an hour before the spike hit,” said Blaylock. “Now our visit time is over an hour, as you might expect.”

Blaylock blames the emergence of the COVID-19 Delta variant for the increase in tests.

Another possible culprit could be recent large festivals or employers requiring the tests.

He said the clinics have invested more than a million dollars to make sure air filtration systems were up to date as more people walk through their facilities.

The trend is being seen across Illinois.

While testing is good, it’s another sign that the pandemic isn’t over.

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