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Long waits at clinics around Milwaukee for last-minute Covid-19 tests

Posted at 5:07 PM, Dec 24, 2021
and last updated 2021-12-24 18:07:55-05

MILWAUKEE — People have been scrambling around Milwaukee to get a Covid-19 test ahead of Christmas Day.

Testing has spiked amid the rise of the Omicron variant during a busy travel season.

Options are limited with public health sites closed due to the holiday.

Rock and Meg from Milwaukee stood in line at the free clinic on Holton and Locust on Friday to receive both rapid and PCR tests. They'll be visiting a senior home on Christmas to spend time with Rock's parents.

“We're delivering Christmas dinner to them. We're both vaccinated, boosted, feeling fine. We just thought it was a sensible thing to do," said Rock.

They'd been in line for about 20 minutes when they spoke with TMJ4. But they were far from the front of the line, where some people had been waiting nearly 90 minutes.

Julia, a student, was further up in the queue.

“My family is actually in Rome. I'm trying to get to them, so I need a rapid Covid test," she said.

A rapid test performed at a clinic, that is. The self-tests are not recognized by the airlines. They're also hard to come by right now. Many pharmacies have sold out.

Free PCR test results are returned on average in 24 to 48 hours, but the surge in demand has increased that time, in some cases to three days or longer (although you can pay for a much quicker turnaround at certain clinics).

Near the airport, on Layton Ave., a long drive of traffic snaked into the parking lot of Hayat Pharmacy.

They tested 900 people on Thursday and expected to test another 900 on Friday.

“It’s crazy [the lines]. I’m thankful there are people willing to work this and do this," said Emily, who was waiting in her car for a test. "The long wait sucks. But it’s an okay price to pay for what the end result could be otherwise.”

Such, Emily said, spreading the virus to family at Christmas dinner.

“Corona doesn’t take any time off, so we decided to be there for the people, to be there for the people who are either positive or suspect they are positive,” said Hashim Zaibak, the CEO of Hayat Pharmacy.

His store on Layton will be open for testing on Christmas and on Friday afternoon it still had plenty of at-home kits available.

Julia, waiting in line at the Holton clinic, said the wait is worth it to be with family on the 25th.

"We’ve waited an hour and a half, why not wait the rest?" she said. "As long as it takes."

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