BALTIMORE (WMAR) — As the omicron variant becomes more dominant and COVID-19 hospitalizations rise across the state, more and more people are struggling to get tested. Today, Gov. Larry Hogan announced a series of actions to ramp up availability.
“It feels kind of like hopeless because you’re trying to run around crazy trying to find a place to get tested, especially because you don’t know if you’ve been exposed to it or not,” said Amber Foxworth.
Foxworth went to four testing sites Tuesday morning before ending up in line outside the Enoch Pratt Free Library Southeast Anchor branch. The Baltimore City Health Department gave the system 5,000 kits so each branch was given about 200 to distribute starting at 10 a.m.
Some started waiting as early as 8:30 a.m. One library branch ran out in six minutes and every branch was out within 40 minutes.
“It’s a big relief. We call it the holy grail,” said one man who was able to get a test kit.
“It’s a little peace of mind, a tiny peace of mind,” said the woman to receive the last two test kits at the SE branch, shortly after 10:30 a.m.
Dozens in line just at the SE branch alone were then turned away.
Many who missed out ended up at the city-run clinic at Village Baptist church, waiting outside for two hours but they did have the supply for everyone in line.
From long waits to canceled appointments and empty store shelves, people are frustrated by the lack of tests available during the surge in cases.
“It’s been pretty challenging. Yesterday, I stood in line for about two hours only to be told I couldn’t get in in time to get a test. They were gonna close the facility before I make it to the front,” said Matthew Frock.
“Over the weekend, 12 patients contacted me for testing and it’s frustrating. I’m sitting here calling pharmacies for them,” said Johns Hopkins Lung doctor Panagis Galiatsatos.
Dr. Galiatsatos said we need to do better.
“The best way to beat this pandemic is to allow people to have the right information to make the right decisions and testing is part of the algorithm,” said Galiatsatos.
Tuesday, Gov. Hogan, who is battling COVID-19 himself, announced several steps to help meet the demand.
State health officials are continuing to make 500,000 at-home rapid tests available at BWI Airport and through local health departments, and are working to increase those weekly shipments to get more tests out more quickly.
The Maryland Department of Health will expand operations to six days a week at its Annapolis and Prince George’s County COVID-19 testing sites. Testing at the State Center site in Baltimore City operated jointly with UMMS will expand as well, with at-home rapid test kits being made available on site.
Hogan is also mobilizing the Maryland National Guard to provide support personnel to expand testing sites and hours and Vaccine Equity Task Force to provide additional resources to offer testing at vaccine clinics in vulnerable communities.
The Baltimore City Health Department is working to get more tests and increase accessibility so they can hold more giveaways like this.
“We understand the frustrations and some of the fear and anxiety in not being able to access tests,” said Dr. Adena Greenbaum.
A few libraries started distributing kits earlier than 10 a.m. because the line was already longer than the kits available and they didn’t want people to wait in the cold.