COVID Test Lines Sure Are Long This Week

The lines at COVID testing sites all across the country are extremely long right now. A testing site in Denver recently had to close within an hour of opening because it had already reached capacity, and another in Olympia, Washington, had to turn away 200 cars because labs were overwhelmed, according to the Washington Post. They’re turning people away in Connecticut and cars are snaking around parking lots in Florida.

In New York City, people are making PSAs out of sharing their line-waiting experience, spending upwards of two, four, even eight hours standing on the sidewalk. There’s now even an entire Twitter account dedicated to monitoring the daunting lines outside of the chain of CityMD urgent care locations. What could all of this be about? Surely they couldn’t be planning to gather without social distancing or masks for Thanksgiving, the very thing that our government has very quietly and pathetically whined it wished people wouldn’t do?  

Despite the absolutely milquetoast warnings from officials, it seems hordes of folks are getting COVID tests in order to justify their upcoming, ill-advised Thanksgiving gathering. Which suggests that, just maybe, vaguely ominous behavioral suggestions  delivered at the last possible moment just might not take the place of strong and consistent public health directives. Just four days ago the CDC floated the idea that traveling and/or gathering for Thanksgiving might not be the safest of moves, and it wouldn’t be mad, exactly, if people gathered; just a little disappointed.

A vast majority of epidemiologists surveyed recently by the New York Times said they will not celebrate Thanksgiving with anyone outside of their household this year, citing the risks that even small, intimate gatherings pose for COVID-19 transmission. Even in cases where everyone at a Thanksgiving table has been recently tested, a test shows only a snapshot of a specific moment in time. A negative test on the Monday before Thanksgiving, in other words, doesn’t necessarily guarantee that a person can’t become contagious and/or symptomatic by Thursday. 

This has been the case for nearly eight months now. Yet thousands of people are camping out on sidewalks and in their cars to get tested, defying logic and reason and ushering in what will almost certainly be an extremely deadly holiday season. 

“How bad could things really get?” you may be wondering, as you stand in line at the urgent care, scrolling away to pass the time before your own test. Canada celebrated its own Thanksgiving on October 11, and although our neighbors to the north have done a much better job of controlling the coronavirus pandemic, the country is experiencing a post-Thanksgiving surge: it from about 2,000 new cases each day in mid-October to an average of 4,776 cases per day in mid-November. Canadian Prime Minister is now begging his country to stay home, if they want any chance at a “normal Christmas,” which already seems to be off the table. 

According to Politico, AAA predicts Thanksgiving travel in the U.S. will drop at least 10 percent from last year, which is significant, but not nearly enough. The agency estimates around 50 million people will travel to Thanksgiving gatherings this week, which would have dire consequences as we head into the rest of the holiday season. As health experts have repeatedly warned, the only ethical choice is to stay home. The lines forming from coast to coast suggest plenty of people are not making that choice, despite finger-wagging from elected officials. 

Follow Hannah Smothers on Twitter.

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