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Patients find long lines for COVID tests in St. Louis area

Drive-thru lines and turnaround times stretch on as coronavirus testing requests spike after the Christmas holiday.

ST. LOUIS — Long lines of cars wind around the Mercy Clinic in Kirkwood Tuesday, but the people waiting for a COVID test are only a select group of potential patients. Everyone at this location had to get a doctor's note in order to line up.

"I'm getting a test because yesterday I was sent home sick from work. I feel about 1000% better but trying to get a test has been proven to be difficult," Tim Ohlman said.

It isn't just the initial line that's longer.

At Total Access Urgent Care, President and Chief Medical Officer Dr. Troy Dinkel said they're seeing a longer turnaround on PCR swabs processed off-site.

"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 of the PCR tests, adding it "puts people in a really tough spot if they have travel-specific requirements that require that testing."

Quest Diagnostics, a nationwide testing provider, directed us to data that shows they're processing about 650,000 coronavirus tests daily.

Quest's Kim Gorode said the majority of those tests are turned around in a day but they are "experiencing extraordinary demand," adding "people in some regions may experience more than a one-day turnaround time."

Hopeful test takers can also acquire a self-administered, at-home test from the state of Missouri, though shipping times do require some advance planning. There's an option on Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services to get a free self-collection test sent to your home.

As the Mercy line crawls forward, patients are practice patience, knowing the wait continues for people like Tim Ohlman's wife who couldn't stay in line.

"I ended up bringing her back home because the babysitter could not stay that long so she is going to have to fight the line either later today — if there are still any tests available — or tomorrow," he said.

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