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As COVID test demand surges, Wake offers residents option of at-home test kits

Lines were forming again on Tuesday at Wake County's drive-thru COVID testing site at Vision Church RDU on Departure Drive in Raleigh.

Posted Updated

Matt Talhelm
, WRAL reporter
RALEIGH, N.C. — Lines were forming again on Tuesday at Wake County's drive-thru COVID testing site at Vision Church RDU on Departure Drive in Raleigh.

A line of cars was already waiting before the event opened at 8 a.m. Due to surging demand for COVID-19 tests, Wake County may have to return to strategies used during the height of the pandemic.

The county is encouraging people to order a free at-home testing kit online. Kits are sent out overnight and offer results on par with tests administered at the in-person sites.
    On Monday, Ethan Porter and Eliza Krans, drove to the Departure Drive site after seeing the line of cars waiting at Kidd Road. Wait times were at least an hour, and for some, longer.

    "It was like three blocks and then around the corner," said Krans.

    These Wake County Public Health sites have already tested more than 15,000 so far this month – and it's only been nine days.

    That's 2,000 more than the entire month of July, and double June's testing total.

    Free testing sites have remained open throughout the pandemic, but the lines seen for most of 2020 dwindled once vaccinations picked up in the spring – when hours-long waits shifted to vaccine sites, leaving testing sites largely empty.

    Wake County COVID testing numbers

    "We don’t want to see someone waiting for an hour, but that was the reality back when demand was this high before, and we ask for patience," said Stacy Beard of Wake County Public Health.

    With COVID cases surging higher than they were this same time last year, Wake County says they may need to return to strategies they used during the height of the pandemic – expanding hours and possibly adding more testing sites.

    "We offered 7 days a week, and I think as demand rises, you will see us returning to something like that," said Beard.

    COVID cases surging once again

    On Monday, North Carolina Department of Health and Humans Services reported 15,800 more new COVID cases added over the weekend.

    That's a 994% increase in the number of cases than what we were at one month ago.

    On Monday, North Carolina was averaging almost 3,300 new COVID-19 cases each day, a number that hasn't been seen since late February. The spike in cases is largely due to the highly-contagious Delta variant and more people gathering in groups without masks, local health officials say.

    Last month, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released new guidance for fully vaccinated people, saying even they should wear a mask in some areas where COVID-19 cases are spreading. Most central N.C. school districts and many local universities and businesses reacted to the advice, again requiring masks indoors for everyone, regardless of vaccine status.

    Wake County is currently only requiring masks in county buildings, but a mask mandate goes into effect in Durham Monday at 5 p.m.

    Even fully vaccinated people can get COVID-19, but it is unlikely that their symptoms will become severe, Jessica Dixon, an infectious disease specialist at WakeMed, told WRAL News.

    As cases rise, health leaders are still urging people to get vaccinated.

    "Post-vaccination infections are still incredibly rare when you look at the entire spectrum of infections that are out there in the entire number of vaccinated people out there," Dixon said. "Very few of those are hospitalized, and, of those, even fewer are going to an ICU. So, I think this is evidence that vaccines are really doing what they were designed to do."

    Even vaccinated people are encouraged to get tested if they experience symptoms of cough, fever, loss of taste or smell or other cold symptoms to prevent spreading the virus.


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