NORFOLK, Va. (WAVY) — Snow, rain, strong winds and freezing temperatures didn’t stop hundreds of people from getting in line for a COVID-19 test at Military Circle Mall Monday.
The site was one of the only Virginia Department of Health Community Vaccine Clinics to stay open as winter weather made a mess across the state.
The site in Norfolk, along with the other statewide clinics, will be closed Tuesday due to the effects of winter weather.
VDH opened the site for testing on New Year’s Eve from 2 p.m. to 6 p.m. as the demand for tests increases.
“We know that there was heavy turnout on New Year’s Eve at the Military Circle Mall,” said Acting Director Dr. Parham Jaberi from the Norfolk Health Department.
The clinic was no stranger to long lines Monday, either.
This recent surge is being blamed on the more transmissible omicron variant, but there is some good news.
“As a whole, we’re hearing more and more that at least with the new variant, the omicron variant, that the severity of the illness is not quite as high as the delta,” said Jaberi.
Testing ran from 2 p.m. to 6 p.m. Monday with many people waiting in their cars to avoid the snow.
The high demand for tests comes as cases increase, putting a strain on hospitals.
“The current virus that is circulating is not causing as many hospitalizations as before, again due to the nature of the virus and due to the fact that many are vaccinated,” he said. “Our hospitals are still getting hit hard.”
Public health officials say this surge isn’t going to end anytime soon.
So, for now, it’s time to return to safe practices — like masking — even if vaccinated.
“The best way to protect yourself is vaccinations. I highly encourage, especially with this more transmissible omicron variant, to go ahead and mask up again,” said Jaberi.
The Virginia Department of Health is holding a press conference over the phone Tuesday morning about their testing efforts statewide.
Virginians who have not been fully vaccinated, or are eligible for booster doses, can visit vaccinate.virginia.gov or call 1-877-VAX-IN-VA (877) 829-4682 to find nearby vaccination clinics.
Those seeking to find or schedule a testing appointment can visit vase.vdh.virginia.gov/testingappointment.