The pop up COVID testing clinic at the Long Center, 701 W. Riverside Drive, has been extended through the week after Monday saw long-lines, high demand and a high amount of positive tests.
After a weekend of gathering for most, the site opened up as a pop-up COVID testing site, attracting hundreds in bumper-to-bumper traffic. The clinic, hosted by Nomi Health, will now be open from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. through Friday and will double its testing staff to meet demand.
Patients looking to get vaccinated began lining up more than three hours before the site opened Tuesday morning. The results for antigen tests become available via text in about 15 minutes, whereas PCR tests take 24-48 hours.
Monday afternoon saw a long line of cars stretching up, down and around a roundabout on Riverside Drive with many reporting waiting for hours. According to a spokesperson for Nomi Health reported by KXAN, 28% of the tests on Monday came back positive. Of the positive patients, 79% were vaccinated and 92% had symptoms.
According to an Austin Public Health spokesperson, the COVID testing site administered around 500 tests Monday and expects to test 565 people Tuesday, though the final count will end up being higher due to walk-ups.
The spread of omicron and holiday rush led to more people testing than average, according to APH, but scheduled tests fall in line with testing from last week. The Travis County Exposition Center administered an average of 505 tests each day it was open last week and the George Morales Dove Springs Recreation Center saw an average of 447 per both days it was open.
“We're excited to see people's interest in doing all they can to protect themselves and others from COVID-19,” the spokesperson said.
A visit to the site around 2 p.m. Monday showed that the site was clearly backed up, with people even stepping out of their cars to help direct traffic and prevent people from cutting in line. The scene left plenty of honking and commotion in its wake, though the line didn’t move more than a car or two per minute.
APH health authorities met last week, discussing lowering risk-based guideline thresholds out of caution in the event of a holiday surge, with Austin-Travis County Health Authority Dr. Desmar Walkes urging residents to get tested before and after gathering with their families.
Both Austin’s positivity rate (8.9%) and community transmission rate (173.5 seven-day average) have continued to climb over the past few weeks.
The testing site will continue to take walk-up appointments Tuesday and opens at 8 a.m., so arrive as early as possible to get through.
There are other neighborhood testing alternatives: Travis County Exposition Center is open Monday–Friday from 8 a.m.–2 p.m. and the George Morales Dove Springs Recreation Center stays open Tuesday–Saturday 8 a.m.–2 p.m. Urgent cares, pharmacies and hospitals also conduct COVID-19 testing.
This story was last updated at 10:30 a.m. Tuesday.
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With major entertainment events slated for October, the Austin-Bergstrom International Airport is gearing up for a busy month.
Artists and music lovers are set to pack into Zilker Park for The Austin City Limits Music Festival in the coming two weekends. Following that, Formula One will bring racing fans to the Circuit of the Americas.
For those two events, the airport is anticipating high passenger days with 30,000 or more people departing flights.
ABIA recommends arriving at least two and a half hours in advance for domestic flights on those days. For ACL, it's expected on both Sundays of the festival along with the Monday and Tuesday after. The F1-driven high passenger days are expected on Oct. 20-21 and Oct. 23-26.
\u201c#AustinCityLimits visitors, you\u2019re in for a weird and wild ride \ud83e\udd18\u262e\ufe0f \n\nFlying in or out of our airport? We got firm and fun tips for you: https://t.co/RawVRalOXN\u201d— Austin-Bergstrom International Airport (AUS) (@Austin-Bergstrom International Airport (AUS)) 1664894083
F1, especially, could draw in loads of travelers as the three-day event saw 400,000 attendees last year. ABIA warns that highways leading to the airport may see even higher traffic than usual around the event and that travelers should plan their route accordingly.
Bailey Grimmett, a spokesperson for ABIA, said travel numbers come in 24 hours in advance. So, it's hard to predict if the airport will see travel volumes at the same levels that have happened around previous F1 races or if it'll top ACL's flight traffic.
Still, she says historical knowledge points to a chance for it.
“We've had that Monday after F1 break the record for single busiest in airport history," Grimmett said. "So context clues I would say yes, but I can't confirm that. But the historical background points to that."
In anticipation of the high volume of flyers, the airport received additional TSA officers for security screening through the end of October. To prepare even further, the Department of Aviation and partners hosted a job showcase and hiring fair to address the continued labor shortage the airport has experienced.
Relief from hectic travel days is on the horizon with November likely to see a slowdown.
"I don't anticipate it will be as busy as October just because we don't have as many events going on," Grimmett said. "Thanksgiving is kind of our primary holiday that we see a lot of passengers coming in and out of the airport."