COVID testing remains limited heading into Christmas weekend


(NewsNation Now) — Lines continue to wrap around COVID-19 testing centers as the omicron variant surges and families prepare for their holiday gatherings.

The United States sees an average of about 149,000 infections a day. That’s up from 75,000 at the beginning of November.

“The rise in infections is pretty dramatic,” said Gigi Gronvall, a senior scholar at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health who has tracked COVID-19 testing efforts during the pandemic.

Testing can help ensure safety at gatherings, for those who don’t have symptoms and weren’t exposed to the virus, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“I feel like right now the system is overwhelmed,” said Dyan Hes, the medical director at Gramercy Pediatrics. “We just actually got a call from one of the major labs that they got, they are so overwhelmed. They wanted us to send a list of how many PCRs we sent yesterday. So that’s how disorganized it is.”

Faced with the high demand, some sites have increased the price of testing to nearly $400 for people paying out of pocket.

In an effort to make testing more accessible, President Joe Biden on Tuesday rolled out a plan to set up federal testing across the country and send half a million at-home test kits to those who want them.

“With delivery starting in January, we’ll be giving these tests to Americans for free and we’ll have websites where you can get them delivered to your home,” Biden said.

That relief won’t come in time for people wanting to see loved ones for Christmas and New Year’s, however.

Some states like New York are working to increase the number of test sites this week, while California Gov. Gavin Newsome has vowed to extend testing hours and hand out test kits to students at every public school.

 “Take a test before you gather,” CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky said.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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