Hundreds race to testing site, waiting hours for COVID-19 tests in short supply

NEW HANOVER COUNTY (WWAY) — Coronavirus cases spiking in the Cape Fear are leading to a mad dash for testing. Thursday, hundreds of cars lined up for hours at New Hanover County Health and Human Services for free rapid tests. 

Vehicles lined up on either side of the Health and Human Services building as early as 7 am–two hours before testing was slated to begin. All in all, NHCHHS says they used 594 tests Thursday, 149 of which came back positive.

Car camped out for what seemed like miles down 17th, 16th, 15th, and Greenfield streets Thursday morning, filled with people anxious to know if they’d been infected.

“Because I’ve been feeling bad and I just want to make sure I don’t have anything,” Christina Gonzales explained after two hours in line. “And there were no appointments in places like Walgreens.”

Many waited for hours depending on which line and street they joined. For some, this was a last resort after striking out with at home COVID-19 tests and appointments booking up days in advance.

According to Abby Cathcart, who’d just waited an hour, “It’s been really hard to find COVID tests pretty much anywhere. And we saw there was a free test for rapid tests today here.”

With the holidays encouraging more gatherings came more exposures to the wildly contagious Omicron variant.

“I’m seeing a lot of it, especially in my neighborhood,” said one driver, who got in line at 8:45. “And it’s been around and we’ve all been kind of… you know. Together.”

Kenneth Robertson scoured local pharmacies and testing sites, finally setting up an appointment as a backup plan. His son was exposed to COVID-19 over the holidays, and Robertson waited in line two hours to both get tested.

“It’s just about, you know, safety. I want to make sure… him first because being that he’s been exposed… he’s fine. And then I want to make sure I’m fine. I can’t even go back to work until I get tested,” he said.

With limited supply, many in line didn’t realize they were racing for resources. Health and Human Services only had around 615 tests.

Gonzales was incredulous when she heard the news. “600 only? We didn’t know that there was only 600 tests available. (We’re) worried first of all. Worried. Worried we lost the time and there’s no testing today.”

The stop and start race to the finish line continued until around 1 pm, with most test-hopeful’s results and even ability to get tested uncertain.


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