Rush for Rapid Tests Leads to Long Lines Ahead of the New Year

Before ringing in the new year, people packed parking lots and waited in long lines to get tested for the coronavirus.

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Waiting for the results of the PCR test she took Monday, Suzanne Haviland of Coventry wanted to know quickly whether she could keep her New Year's Eve plans with her parents, Thursday.

“We’re watching the numbers. We’re very concerned,” she said of the recent spike in Connecticut’s COVID infection rate to nine percent.

She brought her daughter to the Hartford HealthCare-GoHealth Urgent Care in West Hartford while her husband took their son to another location to get tested.  She said making appointments for children under ten is a challenge.

“I tried all the different locations and they were all closed and I ended up trying every day in the morning and was able to get the appointment finally after several days of trying,” Haviland said.

Before ringing in the new year, people packed parking lots and waited in long lines to get tested for the coronavirus.

“We had a regular test done on Monday. We hadn't gotten the results yet. So, we wanted to get the rapid test done,” said Jennifer Yanko of West Hartford.

Hoping to head to Pennsylvania this weekend, the Yanko family pulled into the West Hartford testing site before the doors even opened.

"We were just told to wait and it could be anywhere from 15 minutes to six hours,” said Yanko.

Four hours later, Jennifer, her husband Curtis, and son Nicolai got the green light to take their trip.

Before traveling, Jennifer Yanko waited for four hours to get tested and find out she and her family are negative for the coronavirus.

"In my opinion, it's the only lever we have at our disposal. Everything else is just hope, and it's the one thing we have and it's the one thing we can do and control,” Curtis said of COVID testing.

Just like the PCR test, which is considered the gold standard for COVID testing, the rapid tests being done at GoHealth are molecular. 

According to Hartford HealthCare-GoHealth Urgent Care Medical Director Dr. Eric Walsh, the results are the same as the PCR 98 to 99% of the time. Unlike the PCR, which takes three to five days, these results take just 15 minutes to produce.

“That has driven our demand up as people realize that this is the best rapid test that you can probably get,” said Walsh.

The state's infection rate is also driving people to get tested.

"We're very concerned that the numbers are higher than they've ever been,” said Haviland.

Francheska Terrero said she’d been suffering from COVID symptoms since Monday.

“Dry cough, chest pain, headache, fevers, chills,” Terrero said.

She also couldn’t help but feel concerned after spending Christmas with family.

After trying for days to get an appointment and being turned away as a walk-in on Wednesday, she waited more than three-and-a-half hours to get tested at the same site as Haviland.

Terrero said when she learned that the state’s infection rate jumped from five percent to nine percent in one day, she knew she had to get tested.

“I got freaked out and then I automatically thought I had COVID,” said Terrero.

“We’re seeing a lot of people who’ve been exposed. We are seeing a good number of symptomatic people as well,” said Walsh. "I've worked this week in New London, Glastonbury, and Bristol at our centers, and in every center, I've talked to multiple people all day who have said they didn't think anybody was positive, they had a small gathering. Even then, in many cases, people say two or three days later someone tested positive."

Joe Diorio of Newington hoped the cold he got from his 20-month-old grandson who lives with him is just that, a cold. Because of home renovations, he said he has seven people living under his roof, including his 95-year-old mother-in-law. 

“My sister has it, my brother-in-law has it, a friend in Florida is in the hospital,” he said. “I don't want it. You know, I just want to make sure that we’re all healthy. I’m a little concerned."

Walsh said he anticipates long lines to continue at all of the testing sites as people gear up to go back to school and work next week.

“Pretty much all of them first thing in the morning are we have a line out the door,” he said. “One of the other groups that’s asking for testing a lot are college and university students, public school students, who are saying 'before I can go back next week, I need a test.'”

He said all GoHealth urgent cares will be open for testing on New Year's Day as well as throughout the weekend.

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