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'I went through hell this past week' | People struggle to find COVID tests in Atlanta

Around-the-block lines at testing sites and shortages of at-home tests are causing frustration for many.

ATLANTA — A week left in 2021 and folks are seeing something they've experienced before; a huge demand for COVID-19 tests, this time due to holiday travels, family gatherings, and the omicron variant.

Around-the-block lines at testing sites and shortages of at-home tests are causing frustration for many as they try to find out if they're positive or negative.

“It’s unreal how long this line is, it doesn’t make any sense. It’s 4:39 p.m. , I’ve been online since 1:30 p.m.," said Randy Hutchinson.

Hutchinson talked to 11Alive over the phone as he waited for three plus hours at Gwinnett Mall. He's trying to get a test after experiencing coughing and a fever for a few days after receiving his booster shot. He waited a few days, thinking it was just side effects, until his family members started experiencing symptoms as well.

What Hutchinson experienced is mirroring what people are dealing with around the state and the country. It highlights people's need and want for tests.

“My wife works at Publix, even all the medicine is off the shelves. It’s crazy," said Hutchinson. “Everybody shouldn’t be on this line like this. I’ve never seen this like this.”

Those in charge of the Gwinnett Mall testing location said in an emailed statement, "We are seeing a large increase in demand for testing at this location compared to prior weeks and months. Mako Medical Laboratories is the third-party that operates these sites, from staffing to testing to lab results. They operate our Gwinnett Place testing location as well as a site in Rockdale County, at Springfield Baptist Church. These are the only two testing locations associated with our health department. There are other testing options in the county, from private providers (like chain pharmacies, urgent cares, or organizations like Viral Solutions) to nonprofits (like COVID Care GA), that are offering COVID-19 testing. We are not aware of what their wait times are currently, but as of last week, these organizations were seeing large demand, too."

The Georgia Department of Public Health sent 11Alive a link to see testing sites but admitted their website can’t give you a look at the wait times.

Some of the blame can be attributed to the holidays and people on vacation, but with cases rising, folks who would normally be helping at testing sites- may have COVID themselves.

Scheduling an appointment online at CVS or Walgreens is an option, but you’ll need to search around.

Appointments can be booked for many locations, although some stores vary on the openings. Walgreens even had a temporary outage Monday when people tried scheduling COVID-19 vaccinations and tests.

That’s little comfort for people showing symptoms and trying to figure out if they have a contagious disease

"I hate that people are going through stuff like this," said Hutchinson. "I went through hell this past week. It’s unreal.”

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