Demand for COVID-19 tests skyrockets

Reporter: Breana Ross Writer: Drew Hill
Published: Updated:
urgent care lines

Hospitals and emergency rooms and continuing to see more and more COVID-19 patients. And, unfortunately, many convenient and free mass testing sites are now closed.

The testing site at CenturyLink Sports Complex has been sitting empty since the end of May because there wasn’t enough demand.

One urgent care group says that 5,000 people a day are sick and are showing up to get tested. Because, now, demand is through the roof.

Dr. Jeffrey Collins is the Chief Medical Officer for MD Now Urgent Care says its 57 clinics are seeing almost 5,000 patients per day for COVID-19 testing alone. He knows other ERs and urgent care centers are feeling that same pressure.

Lines, packed parking lots and high wait times are not uncommon at urgent care centers these days. Pamela Simone says he had to wait four hours at MedExpress to get her COVID-19 test. She misses the days where she could get a test at CenturyLink in just minutes.

“They need to do something because I mean even my friends that I’ve talked to have had issues as well trying to get it. I mean there’s like a week wait if you want an appointment at like CVS or Walgreens. Yeah, it’s kind of crazy,” Simonet said.

Sean Dixon Robertson was lucky on Friday, he was able to get a test at MD Now but he had a hard time getting a test after he was COVID positive two weeks ago. Robertson lives in Fort Myers Shores. “Everybody has no openings or they’ve got limited times and at MedExpress I went and I sat for three hours before I could even get a test,” said Robertson.

As patients see wait times extended, urgent care centers are feeling the pressure as thousands are coming in for tests daily. “Because of the increased transmissibility of the Delta virus we are just seeing more sick people coming in,” said Dr. Collins. “It’s getting pretty rough out there for a lot of people.”

With the large state-supported testing sites like CenturyLink closed, urgent care centers are picking up much of the slack. “Any time you close one venue down you know people still need the service so they’ll seek testing at other places so that could be accounting for some of the increase,” said Dr. Collins.

“Unfortunately, we are seeing a lot of our own staff get sick now too and so we don’t always have the manpower,” Collins said.

The Florida Department of Health in Collier County announced on Wednesday that it will be expanding testing.

WINK News reached out to FDOH-Lee to see if they’ll be doing the same thing. It said more hiring will take place so they’ll have the staff so they can do the same.

But Robertson believes there need to be more options for mass testing. “They need to make it better so that you are not waiting 2-3 hours,” said Robertson. “We need CenturyLink back up again.”

WINK News reached out to the Florida Department of Health to see if there’s any effort to reopen the CenturyLink site or any other state sites but we have note yet heard back.

In response to our inquiry about ER wait times, NCH had this to say:

NCH has seen an uptick of visitors to our emergency departments and Immediate Care Centers due to the spread of COVID as more people become infected with the latest Delta variant and seek treatment.  Naturally as a consequence, some wait times have also increased with the increase in patient volume, however, we continue to prioritize patients who present to our Emergency Departments and care for them in a timely manner.  As an example, the Director of NCH Emergency Departments reported that patients who visited the NCH Downtown Baker Hospital Emergency Department just yesterday (8/12/21) were all seen by an emergency physician, on average, within 21 minutes.

Fawcett Memorial Hospital in Port Charlottte also responded to our inquiry about increasing ER wait times and that statement can be found below:

Fawcett Memorial Hospital wants to emphasize that our ER is open and safe 24/7 for anyone who has an emergency.  The increase in COVID-19 positive patients in the community is resulting in an increase in the number of patients in our ER, but we are well prepared to handle this and are not experiencing significant increases in ER wait times, at this time.  Traditionally our ER is busiest after hours and on weekends, when many other medical facilities are closed.

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