Long lines, lack of time slots plaguing RI’s COVID-19 testing system

Coronavirus

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — The Rhode Island National Guard is testing more people for COVID-19 than ever before, but as cases and hospitalizations climb statewide, there’s now an influx of Rhode Islanders waiting to get tested.

12 Responds has received numerous complaints from Rhode Islanders regarding the state’s testing program, which include difficulties scheduling a test and long wait times for appointments.

One viewer wrote, “the governor always says it’s easy to get tested, but when you try to make an appointment, it takes days. It’s not as easy as she makes it sound.”

Another said she was recently around two people who tested positive for the virus, and when she went to go schedule a test for herself, she discovered nothing was available “for weeks at a time.”

“How are we going to contain the virus when people can’t get appointments?” she questioned.

Providence resident JD Crooks has to get tested every other week for COVID-19 and said he schedules his appointments roughly six days in advance.

“Unfortunately, it’s hard to get one day-of,” he said. “So, if you are exposed, I think it is a little bit of a problem.”

It’s not just scheduling a test that’s problematic. Rhode Islanders who were able to schedule a test have reported long wait times outside testing sites, including a 12 News reporter who waited an hour-and-a-half past his scheduled time slot.

Lines of cars were seen Wednesday outside the Rhode Island Convention Center testing site. Due to the record-number of tests being administered, the Rhode Island National Guard tells 12 News they created an “overflow lane” to prevent traffic from spilling onto neighboring streets.

“It’s been extremely busy,” Rhode Island National Guard Major Roger Jacavone said.

Last week, the Rhode Island National Guard increased its testing capacity at the Rhode Island Convention Center to nearly 1,200 tests per day. Due to the influx of people needing to get tested, they’re now turning away anyone who shows up without a scheduled appointment.

“It backs up the line,” Jacavone said. “It’s just like at a doctor’s office, you wouldn’t appreciate if people showed up without an appointment and were being seen before you, and then you had to wait. We are asking everyone to be patient.”

Rhode Island Department of Health Medical Director Dr. James McDonald said Rhode Islanders who are struggling to schedule a test can try contacting their doctors’ offices for assistance, but what they really want is everyone to comply with the state’s COVID-19 mandates.

“There’s way too much disease out there,” McDonald said. “Quite frankly, what we need is less people who need a test and more people who are just staying home and wearing their masks when they go outside.”

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