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Tips for getting a COVID test around Atlanta right now

It's extremely difficult finding quick availability out there right now.

ATLANTA — Omicron is sweeping through Georgia, as it is throughout much of the rest of the country, and with three days to go to Christmas that's naturally causing a major surge in testing around Atlanta.

We've seen reports flooding in of congested testing sites and frustrated people waiting in lines that stretch as far as the eye can see.

RELATED: People wait hours for COVID tests at sites, home tests sold out in Atlanta

It can be hard to sort out what your best option is - many of the most obvious ones have their drawbacks with everyone trying to do the same thing, and few available ways to get a test are necessarily ideal.

But if you need to check your COVID status before you try to see loved ones for Christmas, here's a rundown of what you can try:

Note that almost all sites will be closed Christmas Eve and Christmas Day.

Public COVID testing sites

Keep in mind that perhaps the single-most congested source of testing right now is probably drive-thru sites. Still, it's worth checking these kinds of options first.

Also keep in mind this tip - if you really, really need a test, be willing to drive a little ways. Sites in places like Buckhead and Decatur have been slammed, but that's not necessarily the case an hour outside of Atlanta, for instance. 

In Atlanta, Fulton County operates a public testing site at the Center for Health and Rehabilitation at 265 Boulevard that's open Mon.-Fri. 8:30 a.m.-4 p.m. There are also public testing sites run by Fulton County in Alpharetta and South Fulton.

DeKalb County operates one site, in Chamblee, but said on Wednesday it will open up a temporary site at Greater Piney Grove Baptist Church in Atlanta at 1879 Glenwood Ave. SE on Thursday, Dec. 23 from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m.

Gwinett County's location at Gwinnett Place Mall will close on Dec. 23 for the Christmas weekend.

Cobb County operates a site at the Riverside Epicenter at 135 Riverside Pkwy. in Austell that will be open Thursday, Dec. 23 from 8 a.m.-noon.

Additionally, Mako Medical runs all Georgia testing sites overseen by the Department of Public Health - the company has a website with testing locations and registration availability for every county in the state.

Private COVID testing sites

Okay, so you're not having any luck with the public testing sites. How about private ones?

There are lots of private drive-thru testing locations around Atlanta. One of the biggest operators of these sites is Viral Solutions. They have locations in Buckhead (3264 Northside Pkwy.), Marietta (2325 Roswell Rd.), Decatur (2512 N. Druid Hills Rd.), Norcross (2140 Beaver Ruin Rd.) and Riverdale (7725 Hwy. 85).

Understand, though, that in the last two days 11Alive reporters have been to the locations in Decatur and Buckhead, and they have been slammed. 

There's also urgent care clinics and private pharmacies like CVS and Walgreens. Demand here is also being stretched to the limit, but the Georgia Department of Public Health has a helpful tool where you can enter your zip code and see what's available from these kinds of operations around you.

Check out the DPH commercial testing site search tool here.

Generally speaking, these kinds of operations offer testing for free and then bill your insurance.

One last option are the kinds of pop-up private testing clinics that have sprouted up to meet demand. These include businesses like Atlanta Rapid Testing in Marietta (2359 Windy Hill Rd. Unit 210) or Test 4 Free (locations include Lenox Mall, Cumberland Mall, Perimeter Mall, and Avalon in Alpharetta).

Another option is Serenity Laboratories where we saw very short lines and quik turnaround times on PCR tests on Wednesday and Thursday. They are located at the corner of Northside Drive and Trabert Avenue in northwest Atlanta (1451 Northside Drive NW). 

One way to search these kinds of businesses out is to go to Google and simply search: "Rapid test near me." It can vary as to whether these kinds of businesses charge, though, so call ahead.

Hospitals

This may be your best option, but it comes with the caveat that hospitals generally only provide testing for their own members.

Kaiser Permanente, for instance, has fairly extensive COVID testing availability - but you have to be a Kaiser patient. The same is true for Wellstar, and Piedmont Healthcare.

If you belong to a hospital system and want to know about their testing availability, you can search them out online or give them a call.

At-home tests

Lastly, there are at-home tests. These have rapidly become the source of last resort for many people, and generally speaking the places that carry them - CVS, Walgreens and the like - are getting wiped out.

Most places around Atlanta are reporting their stocks of at-home tests like Binax and QuickVue are sold out.

This is not a satisfying answer, but if you're in Atlanta your only really useful option to obtain these kinds of tests may be to pick a direction, drive an hour that way away from the city, and start going to whatever CVS and Walgreens locations you can find.