NYC full of hour-long waits for COVID-19 tests during case surge

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Instead of lining up to see Santa or waiting to buy Christmas gifts, New Yorkers stood for hours Saturday to get COVID-19 tests as cases continued to surge.

Residents fumed as they waited for the nasal swabs in order to travel or because they thought they might have the virus.

At a city-run testing and vaccination center in Times Square on Saturday afternoon, the wait was about three hours.

“I’m cold and frustrated. We are in such a big city, there should be more options available,” said Alessandra Abate, 29, a graduate student from Dumbo who had been in line for two hours.

Abate needed the test to travel to Italy on Sunday to see her family.

“It’s literally impossible over the weekend to find a place,” she said.

A worker at the site said the wait was “the most ridiculous I’ve seen.”

Pedestrians line up for a COVID-19 testing pop up site on W 47th St. and 6th Ave in Midtown, Manhattan.
Pedestrians line up for a COVID-19 testing pop up site on West 47th St. and 6th Ave in Midtown, Manhattan.
Georgett Roberts

But the worker, who would only give his name as Cliff, added there was no line for vaccines.

Frustration mounted in the late afternoon when those in line were told the single person doing the testing had taken a lunch break.

Lisa Vastola, 34, from Hells Kitchen, who wanted to get tested for a possible virus exposure, said the city should know how to run the sites smoothly by now.

“I see people giving up,” she said. “If there’s too many lines, people are not going to get tested before the holidays.”

There were shorter lines at a Lab Worq pop-up tent at 47th St. and 6th Ave., but a worker said they would be shutting down early because they had less than 20 test kits left at around 3:45 p.m.

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Danny Lin, 21, who is leaving Monday for a vacation in Curaçao, said he had already been to another site on 34th St. that ran out of tests.

“I have to get it today,” he said.

At CityHealth Urgent Care in Kew Gardens, teacher Terri Huckabee said she had a cold and was waiting for a test to rule out COVID-19.

Boxes of BinaxNow home COVID-19 tests made by Abbott are shown for sale on Nov. 15, 2021, at a CVS store in Lakewood, Wash.
Employees say that at-home COVID-19 testing kits are becoming scarce at pharmacy stores.
Ted S. Warren/AP

“Yesterday I went to three places, including this one and just gave up,” said Huckabee of Queens Village. “They were at capacity and ran out tests so I just went home.”

She said she left one site because it was crowded and lacked ventilation and she didn’t feel comfortable.

“If there is a surge, the city should really up their game because this is not good,” she said.

At a CVS next to the clinic, a worker said the at-home testing kits were flying out the door.

“We got three boxes up on the shelf this morning and they were sold out by mid day,” the workers said.

City officials said Thursday that testing hours at city sites would be expanded and at-home test kits distributed if lines go too long.

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