NORFOLK, Va. (WAVY) — Last week, it looked like Black Friday every day outside Military Circle Mall as COVID-19 concerns had people standing in line for hours for free, no-appointment-needed coronavirus testing.
As cases — mostly of the omicron variety — soar, state officials came up with what appears to be a solution.
Just outside the former Macy’s Department store, a four-sided tent has been erected for appointment-only free testing. The hours of operation are Saturday through Thursday, 9 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.
To book an appointment, the state directs you to a website that asks you to provide your zip code. It’s not a problem if you don’t have a smartphone, computer, or access to the internet. Just a few steps from the tented testing site, the state has deployed a mobile unit where workers inside can book appointments.
Patients were eager to share stories about the efficiency of the process.
“I signed up online, came in at the designated time, signed in, and they just swabbed my nose. Wasn’t too bad… It was fine, smooth, and quick,” said Clayton Hall of Norfolk.
“What I like about this… First you make your appointment and it’s right across — 100 feet away — and then you come on by to get the test. You get the swab in the nose and you are done,” said Gina Payne, who is a teacher in the Hampton Roads area.
This weekend, 1,100 people were tested in Hampton. Just under half, including senior citizens and entire families, tested positive in a pandemic that has exposed health disparities.
“We need to have it in the neighborhoods — the testing and the vaccines — in the neighborhoods for easy access,” said Gaylene Kanoyton of Celebrate Healthcare. Her organization has hosted dozens of vaccination clinics since the life-saving vaccine became widely available.
There is hope with more efficient surveillance, the nation can get ahead of the virus.
A local man, Pete Humes, and his daughter were tested at the Military Mall testing site. His wife is on the mend after testing positive for COVID-19.
He offers this assessment of the tented testing site: “Great, very easy. We just showed up for our appointment, checked in and they gave a quick swab in each nostril. [This was] actually easier than the home test,” said Humes.