COVID testing wait time grows with surge

As COVID-19 surges in Alachua County, wait times for testing have lengthened to days, leaving some residents little choice but to travel to neighboring towns to find out if they are positive.

Currently, the Florida Department of Health in Alachua County will only test people who are symptomatic or have upcoming travel plans.

Residents who test positive for COVID will need to start their five day-isolation. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recently lowered that isolation period from 10 days out of concern for the impact long isolations could have during the omicron variant wave.

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Due to testing delays, Alachua County residents may end up waiting a whole isolation period before both getting tested and receiving their results. All locations run by the health department, CVS and the Emergency Physicians Medical Center require appointments in order to be tested.

CVS automates the COVID testing process. When calling a location and following the prompts for testing, the line directs callers to the pharmacy’s website.

On CVS’s website as of Monday afternoon, the earliest available time for a test within Alachua County was Thursday in High Springs or Hawthorne. Further options also included Williston, Keystone Heights and Lake Butler.

As of Monday afternoon, multiple Gainesville locations still had slots available for Friday, Jan. 7.

The Emergency Physicians Medical Center filled testing slots by having patients arrive in person on Monday, starting at 8 a.m., to fill in the day’s available times. Online and over-the-phone booking wasn’t available for the location on NW 39 Avenue, with the location on Tower Road closed through Wednesday due to staffing shortages.

International travel requires COVID tests even though domestic travelers only need to wear a mask. So anyone planning trips abroad should schedule appointments early.

For people who need a COVID test to return to work, expect to wait a few days during the omicron surge. Planning ahead should avoid the problem, but someone who unexpectedly needs a quick test might be forced to wait.

Last week, Alachua County recorded more than 2,000 new positive cases

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