The omicron variant of the coronavirus is spreading across the nation and leaving frustrated Americans sitting in long lines at testing sites that often wrap around multiple blocks.
“Oh my God. It’s just overwhelming,” Sheryl Malone of Ohio told WKSU of the long waits to get tested this holiday season.
Malone is far from alone. Videos and reports from states across the country show long lines at testing sites and at-home test kit pickup sites, which have left some Americans waiting hours.
“A woman yesterday offered me $50 right at the end of this road just to turn in front of me and cut off 100 cars, probably because she had to go to work,” Bryan Tucker told WRAL.com of a testing site in Raleigh, North Carolina. Tucker said he waited in line for nearly two hours with his sick mom and three-year-old son.
“How many people are being turned away? How many are being disillusioned because they come up here and see the line and they say, ‘I have to go to work. I don’t care, I was exposed, I have to go to work,’” he added.
Cars wrapped around several blocks in Leesburg, Virginia, while people waited at a drive-thru testing site on Tuesday. People reported waiting three hours to get a test on Sunday in Virginia Beach, some testing sites in the Denver area reached capacity on Sunday, and organizers of a testing site in Philadelphia had to turn people away because the line was so long on Tuesday.
“Day after Christmas … I was not expecting this at all,” Taylor Brewer told 13 News Now of a Virginia Beach testing site. “I’m here to get a COVID test. I have certain symptoms, but I just want to double check.”
Officials at various testing sites say the wait lines are due to people not scheduling appointments before showing up combined with a surge of people wanting to get tested following Christmas parties and ahead of New Year’s celebrations.
Omicron has been detected in every state, and various states keep breaking records for daily coronavirus cases due to the spike. COVID cases have increased by 48% over the past week across the nation, and the seven-day average of U.S. cases topped 267,000 on Tuesday, the New York Times reported.
Hospitalizations for the omicron variant, however, have so far been lower than other variants, with hospitals nationwide seeing a 2% increase in patients.
A shortage of at-home testing kits is also looming over the nation, exacerbating the testing site lines.
President Biden has come under fire in the last week following a Vanity Fair report that claimed that the White House turned down a plan in October that would have added 730 million at-home testing kits to the market per month.
The White House later announced, in October, it would seek to bolster home testing through the “FDA’s regulatory approval process.”
Biden flatly denied the Vanity Fair report when he was confronted by White House reporters this week.
“We didn’t reject it,” Biden told a New York Post reporter before departing the White House for Marine One on Monday.
Earlier that same day, Biden said on a phone call with the National Governors Association that the administration “would have gone harder” on supplying tests if they could have.
“It is not enough. It’s clearly not enough. If I had – we – had known, we would have gone harder, quicker, if we could have,” he said.
Biden said during the call that 1,000 military doctors and nurses and medics will be mobilized to help hospitals amid the case increases and that the administration is working to amend the testing site issues.
“Seeing how tough it was for some folks to get a test this weekend shows that we have more work to do, and we’re doing it,” he said.
The federal government plans to purchase 500 million at-home testing kits. Officials say those tests will become available to Americans starting next month.