NEW YORK — As coronavirus cases in the city spike, long lines are returning to testing sites. 

"I think because the numbers are going up and people are trying to be extra-cautious and safe and take care of each other and make sure we have the information we need,” said Queens resident Gianna Cioffi.

What You Need To Know

  • COVID-19 testing sites around the city have seen longer than usual wait times

  • Over the summer, the city was testing 30,000 people a day; in the last few weeks, it's been 50,000 people

  • Health officials expect a higher demand for testing before holiday travel and gatherings

Cioffi waited in line more than two hours at the City MD on Steinway Street in Astoria, Queens. On Friday, the line wrapped around the corner. 

On the Upper East Side, there was a nearly four-hour wait. Andy Jeong weathered the rain and waited it out. 

"The city needs to increase more facilities to get tested for more people," Andy Jeong said. "Because I am sure all these people are working and we need more things to have more support because this is crazy."

Despite the demand, City MD announced it will reduce operating hours because of a months-long strain on its medical staff. Starting Monday, City MD locations will close 90 minutes earlier than usual. Access to the lines might be cut off even earlier. 

NYC Health + Hospitals has seen longer waits at its testing centers, too. 

"As the rates of positive tests increase across the New York City, that definitely has an impact of individuals deciding whether or not to get tested, and I think that has really been a main driving factor,” said Dr. Andrew Wallach, the chief medical officer at NYC Test & Trace Corps.

Wallach says over the summer city-run sites were testing a total of 30,000 people a day. He says over the last few weeks, that number has ballooned to nearly 50,000, and sometimes more. 

To meet the additional demand, NYC Health + Hospitals is rolling out a dozen of these mobile units:

They are ambulances retrofitted to create fully equipped walk in testing sites. They call it the ice cream truck model.

"That will be able to be deployed throughout the colder weather, including if it were to snow, where patients can literally line up and come to the vehicle, register, and then at the next window if you will, instead of receiving your ice cream you received your COVID test,” Wallach said.

Wallach says he expects demand to increase even further as people seek proof they are not infected before gathering with family or traveling before the holidays.

He says New Yorkers should stay in line, because the wait is worth it.


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