North Texans waiting hours for COVID-19 tests as cases increase

With COVID-19 cases climbing in every state across the U.S., it will take at least another week to find out how holiday gatherings impacted the spread of the highly contagious omicron variant.

Long lines are once again filling COVID testing sites across North Texas.

Stores, like Walmart, say they've also seen a significant demand for at-home COVID-19 testing kits.

The owner of an Oak Lawn testing site said they were testing 20-30 people per day a few weeks ago.

Sunday, they tested several hundred people.

There was a stalled line of traffic in Oak Lawn.

Some people waited in their vehicles for hours to get tested for COVID-19. There’s a shortage of tests across the country.

"The line wasn’t as long when we got here, but it’s still been two hours," Madeleine Restrepo said.

Restrepo brought her grandmother to get tested. Neither have symptoms, but her grandmother needs proof of a negative test to fly out of the country to get home to Colombia.

"So now my cousin and my grandmother need to get tested so they can get home safely," she explained.

Their family is fortunate to not have symptoms, but cases are rising due to the highly contagious omicron variant.

"[Omicroni is] even the most contagious of the previous ones, including delta. There’s no argument on anybody’s part about that," White House Chief Medical Advisor Dr. Anthony Fauci said.

Dr. Fauci said omicron appears to be less severe than past variants, but said people should remain vigilant.

"Even though we’re pleased by the evidence from multiple countries, that it looks like there is a lesser degree of severity, we’ve got to be careful that we don’t get complacent about that," Fauci said.

There are close to 1,000 COVID-19 hospitalizations in North Texas, which is the highest number in two months. Still, that’s only about 20% of the nearly 5,000 hospitalizations during the peak of the pandemic.

"If you’re vaccinated, yes, you might get a breakthrough virus, but you probably won’t be in the hospital," DFW Hospital Council CEO Dr. Steve Love said.

Love added that while omicron is the dominant variant in the United States overall, that’s not yet the case in North Texas. But it will be the dominant variant in several weeks.

"Omicron is here, don’t get wrong, but it’s not the dominant strain [in North Texas]," he said.

It’s easy to see there’s an increased demand for testing. 

Some know they don’t feel well. Then there are ones like Francisco Herrera, whose job places him in contact with people every day. He tests once a week for peace of mind.

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