As the omicron variant fuels a sharp rise in COVID-19 cases, more North Texans are seeking out drive-thru rapid testing.
In what evokes memories of the early months of the pandemic – hundreds lined up Sunday in their vehicle – at sites across North Texas – waiting for a COVID-19 test.
Dr. Martin McElya is the medical director at Neighborhood Medical Center in Addison and operates the testing site under the same name just off the DNT in far North Dallas.
“It’s kind of déjà vu all over again,” McElya said. “It’s going berserk.”
Before you dismiss that as hyperbole, consider this – McElya has operated the testing site since COVID-19 took hold 21 months ago.
McElya moved quickly from car to car in the parking lot of a former steakhouse. He added the positivity rate for tests here Sunday climbed to 30%.
“We’ve got people streaming in all day long,” McElya said. Some are symptomatic, some are not symptomatic but very, very high positivity rate.”
He says the high positivity rate tells him more of us have stopped or reduced mask-wearing and social distancing.
“People have stopped being cautious, they’re fatigued with the whole thing and they’re getting out and being around people and they’re just spreading it like wildfire,” McElya said.
McElya added the wait times for a rapid test result, around three to four hours, has only gone up because he’s struggling to keep his employees from either burning out or testing positive.
Testing demand also peaked at the height of the Delta variant in early September but McElya says he’s already noticing key differences with omicron.
“It doesn’t seem quite as severe in the patients that we’re seeing however the volume has just expanded so quickly,” McElya said. “It’s not a slow ramp-up it’s just gone up like a rocket ship, straight up.”
With Dallas County testing locations closed until the new year, McElya says he expects long lines every day for at least the next two to three weeks.