COVID-19 testing fills up quickly after holiday gatherings

PITTSBURGH — The rush is on across the Pittsburgh area as people turn their attention from holiday activities to COVID testing after spending Christmas with friends and family.

Sunday, the Parkway Center testing site in Pittsburgh saw long lines and lengthy wait times.

Some people said they waited more than two hours past their scheduled appointment to get swabbed.

Infectious disease expert Dr. Amesh Adalja is not surprised by the rush to get tested.

“Once we’ve seen omicron cases increase, people increasingly want to know their status, whether they’re contagious to others, you’re going to see a major surge in testing,” he said.

Pittsburgh’s Parkway Center was one of few test sites open, as others across Allegheny County remained closed Sunday following the Christmas holiday.

The testing site’s online scheduler showed every appointment was filled Sunday.

“This happened before the holidays and I expect it’s going to be the new normal for some time until we get a better handle on omicron,” said Adalja.

People are rushing to get tested after their holiday gatherings, but Adalja cautions to wait up to five days.

“The incubation period for omicron seems to be a little bit shorter, so people may get some benefit from testing earlier, but usually it’s not going to be immediately after your exposure that you actually have a valuable test. You have to get through some of the incubation period,” said Adalja.

He expects holiday gatherings, paired with the increased interest in testing, to bring a surge in COVID cases in the coming weeks.

“Any time people socially gather, you’re going to see an increase in COVID-19 cases, and that going to be even more the case with a variant like the omicron variant, which is more contagious, which is able to infect vaccinated people, which is able to infect people with prior immunity,” said Adalja.

“I came here yesterday waiting a half an hour in line. It was probably a two hour wait line,” said Mark Mislanovich who’s from Upper St. Clair.

Monday marked Mislanovich’s second day trying to get a COVID-19 test.

“I don’t have any symptoms now, but someone in my office had it so the office manager mandated we all get a test,” Mislanovich said.

Curative testing locations are encouraging people to sign up for appointments online to help cut down on those long wait times. Local doctors anticipate more people will be searching for tests in the coming week.

“Oh my gosh it’s incredibly hard, it’s hard. I made an appointment here and as you can see, I’m still waiting. The wait times are just unbelievable,” said Heidi Leytrick who lives in Pittsburgh.

Curative is offering PCR tests in partnership with the county at some locations. Doctors want to remind people to get the most accurate result you should wait at least five days from that holiday gathering to get the test.

“My family didn’t feel good all weekend, so we were just quarantining and following the rules. We were just waiting it out,” Leytrick said.

You can check for available appointments at the Parkway Center testing site here: https://book.curative.com/sites/15423

The Allegheny County Health Department resumed free walkup testing at three locations on Monday, most of which filled up quickly.

There are no spots remaining for appointments to get a COVID-19 test at the North Park Pool Testing Site and the Tarentum First United Presbyterian Church Testing Site. The Brentwood Volunteer Fire Department Testing Site has closed.