JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – As more cases of the omicron variant are confirmed across the country, many people are looking to get tested before they see family and friends for the holiday.
This has resulted in increased demand for COVID-19 testing and vaccinations in Northeast Florida.
Cheryl Riddick, who is going to see her family for Christmas, said she wants to be extra careful before putting anyone at risk.
“I have no symptoms, I have not been impacted by it, but I just want to be safe,” she said.
She got a quick COVID-19 test at the Cuba Hunter Center on Jacksonville’s southside, one of the Duval County Health Department’s two free testing locations.
“I’ve been here before and surprisingly I’ve never had a problem waiting,” she said Monday. “I was afraid that I might have had lines today given the interest and the rising numbers, but there was no line.”
News4JAX stopped by the Emmett Reed Center downtown and noticed there weren’t any significant lines there either.
“DOH-Duval testing numbers have remained steady, where we average 50-70 people being tested daily,” spokesperson Jean Holloway told News4JAX. “Two days last week we had 80-100 people who came to be tested.”
She said vaccines demand went up by a small amount.
“When Omicron was first reported (12/1/21) within the US, we only saw a slight increase in vaccination rates for the first few days,” she said in an email. “For the past two weeks, we seem to be averaging about the same each day/week. Last week, DOH-Duval administered 446 vaccines (12/8/21 – 12/14/21) and this week (12/15/21-12/21/21) so far 274 vaccines have been administered.”
The site load is a big difference from the long lines at the height of the pandemic, but those at the testing sites say the need for testing is picking up.
Across the country, there’s been concern about at-home tests selling out. However, News4JAX went to local Walgreens and CVS stores and found self-tests were for sale.
“I wanted to make sure that everybody was safe,” said Karen Worth, who got her booster shot at the Cuba Hunter Center. “I’ve gotten [the vaccine] for my kids so everyone should be fully vaccinated now.”
Worth said her whole family had a bad bout with the virus in 2020 and they don’t want it again.
“It was awful, absolutely awful,” she recalled.
Saman Soleymani, M.D., who offers testing at his Avecina Medical locations, said cases are climbing alarmingly fast.
“The question really comes down to: could the omicron overwhelm the healthcare system and the answer it is definitely a concern,” he said. “And that’s simply because of the speed. How it spreads.”
He said the transmissibility and viral loads are higher than he’s seen for any other variant, meaning there will likely be a large number of cases in the future.
Here are links to find out more about testing statewide and in local counties:
St. Johns: stjohns.floridahealth.gov