(WRIC/WFXR) — With increasing lines of cars bumper to bumper — reminiscent of gas station visits during the 1974 oil crisis — Virginians are facing difficulties finding COVID-19 tests as case numbers soar.
At least 75 cars were caught on camera on Wednesday, Dec. 29 in Richmond leading to a testing site; no telling how many people sat idling in car seats.
In Chesterfield, people lined up over an hour in advance for tests at a church community center on Walmsley Boulevard. Minutes before the test site opened at 3 p.m., people were told tests ran out; an example of short supply where there was huge demand.
The Chesterfield Health District did not respond when asked for an explanation about the shortage.
“This all came really quickly,” State Vaccine Coordinator Dr. Danny Avula told WFXR’s sister station, WRIC, when asked if Virginia was prepared for the rising testing demand.
According to Avula, “we used up most of our [rapid test] supply last week in libraries and have just gotten small amounts that we are now using in community events.“
The VDH has partnered with 38 library systems around the Commonwealth to offer at-home COVID-19 testing kits for free, but several libraries — such as Roanoke Public Libraries, Botetourt County Libraries, and the Salem Public Library — are already out of stock for rapid coronavirus tests.
“We still do have plenty of capacity at the state lab for PCR tests. Obviously people have avoided those just because of the more invasive nasal swab,” Avula said, while noting there is not enough people to work test sites and more need to be opened to handle the demand.
Avula pointed a finger at the federal government for the slow response to testing needs, hoping President Joe Biden’s national order of 500 million free rapid tests — set for some time in January — comes sooner than later
“If we had known, we would’ve gone harder quicker if we could’ve,” Biden said Tuesday, Dec. 28 during a call with America’s governors on the pandemic.
Virginia cases are already surpassing the pandemic’s peak nearly one year ago, resulting in . With the newer omicron variant, more vaccinated people are testing positive.
Avula is forging ahead to keep trying to convince the unvaccinated that jabs remain a safe investment.
“The vaccines have held up well against hospitalization and death, and if that continues with Omicron, that’s the data I think will be most compelling to people who are still resistant to getting vaccinated,” Avula said.
For those who are interested in being tested for COVID-19 in the Roanoke Valley, the Salem Civic Center is set to provide drive-thru PCR testing from 3 to 5 p.m. each Tuesday from now through Jan. 25, 2022, no appointments necessary.
The Roanoke City and Alleghany Districts will also be handing out 300 at-home COVID-19 test kits at the Salem Civic Center starting at 11 a.m. on Thursday, Dec. 30.