PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — With appointments at state-run COVID-19 testing sites and at-home rapid tests hard to come by in the New Year, community clinics across the state are seeing an influx of people.
In an effort to keep up with the demand, three testing sites in Providence and two in Central Falls recently opened and are offering free, walk-up tests at various times throughout the week.
Ever since the community-based testing sites opened, they’ve been inundated with long lines of people waiting for their chance to get tested.
For many people, waiting in these long lines is their last resort.
The testing site at Knight Memorial Library opened at 4 p.m. Wednesday, and many people waited for hours in the rain for their turn to get tested.
One of the first people in line to get a test at Knight Memorial Library was Eric, who’s a pharmacist in the capital city. He tells 12 News that his workplace didn’t get their full shipment of tests this week.
“You can’t really find a test,” he said. “We ordered tests about a month and a half ago. We ordered 300 tests and only 10 showed up. So it’s been pretty scarce.”
That scarcity was seen firsthand by many around 6:30 p.m., when dozens of people who were still waiting in line were turned away.
One woman, who asked to remain anonymous, said library staff came outside and told them there were only four tests left, even though the testing site was scheduled to close in a half hour.
“Four people went in and they just immediately closed the door on us,” she recalled. “We were in shock at first, and then upset and wondering … why can’t you take anyone else?”
Many of the people who were still in line, including herself, had been waiting since the testing site opened more than two hours prior, according to the woman.
Knight Memorial Library Manager Gail Yallop tells 12 News they have no control over the number of tests they receive from the R.I. Department of Health, adding that they are only hosting the clinic with the supplies they’ve been given.
Yallop said they didn’t expect this turnout.
“I don’t think anyone could have been prepared,” Yallop said. “They had worked until they had used every test they had.”
“I apologize to everyone who came out and had to be turned away,” she added. “That was never our intent.”
Due to the influx of people, the library has added an additional testing day. It is now also open on Saturdays from 10:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. Yallop asked everyone who wants to get tested at their clinic to arrive early and be patient.