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'We absolutely have no additional staff': Health care workers struggle to keep up with COVID test demand

Testing is in high demand as people return from holiday festivities as the omicron variant continues to spread.

ST. LOUIS — The open sign shines brightly at Total Access Urgent Care where their Creve Coeur locations have seen crowds of COVID patients for almost two years, but as they prepare for another spike leaders warn they're stretched thin with no more strategies to recruit staff.

"Yeah, we absolutely have no additional staff availability. We have hired every person that we possibly could," President & CMO Dr. Troy Dinkel said.

Dinkel said staff shortages limit their ability to turn tests in-house, restricting the number of time slots they can offer. And now they worry the ability to send out PCR tests for off-site processing could be affected too.

"Right now there is so much testing from the East Coast — I'm told New York, in particular — that it is actually being done in St. Louis, and it is causing a delay in our 24 to 48 hour turnaround times," he said.

Testing is in high demand as people return from holiday festivities as the omicron variant continues to spread.

In St. Louis County, they say cases jumped 58% from one week to the next.

"The transmissibility of it is worrisome and as Dr. Fauci said, we have a virus that is much much more transmissible. If people are less sick, it can still add up to a whole lot of activity and stress on our hospitals, perhaps more than they can handle," County Executive Sam Page said.

When they run the tests, Dinkel said their patients' positivity rate of around 21% is the highest it's been since the vaccine came out. And that, unfortunately, involves some of their existing staff. More are out now, Dinkel said, because of COVID than at any point prior in this pandemic.

"Please, please accept our apologies for your wait or for the delays," Dinkel said. "And please show all the heroes that are working on our teams a little bit of extra grace."

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