As COVID cases spike, so does demand for testing

Published: Sep. 24, 2021 at 3:59 PM EDT
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WATERTOWN, New York (WWNY) - The demand for COVID 19 testing in northern New York has shot up, as the Delta variant spreads.

You can see that in Mark Knowles’ parking lot.

Knowles operates Watertown Urgent Care on Coffeen Street. Friday morning, the parking lot was crowded with people in their vehicles, waiting to get tested.

Before the Delta variant, Watertown Urgent Care might do 70 or 80 COVID tests a day - a lot, but manageable.

Thursday, they did 164.

“Well, speaking for the staff, you know, it’s becoming harder and harder, more and more stressful. When you’re seeing that kind of numbers, it’s hard to even take a break,” Knowles told 7 News Friday.

Even though the number of COVID cases has risen sharply in the north country of late, and deaths are rising as well, Knowles isn’t seeing a lot more positive tests, or people who are really sick with COVID.

“More than half of what comes in are not even sick people, they are just needing testing for a variety of reasons,” he said.

“Schools, anybody has a sneeze it seems the school nurse sends them home and nobody is allowed back in unless they get COVID testing. A lot of businesses also want it.”

Watertown Urgent Care has doubled up staffing to handle the increase in testing, Knowles said.

He said schools need to come up a way to provide testing.

“If they’re saying ‘you don’t come back unless tested,’ you can’t rely on what a few of us out there are able to do” for testing, he said.

As it turns out, there’s a plan in the works to provide COVID 19 testing in Jefferson and Lewis county schools.

“We are all sort of in the final stages of getting the logistics worked out, getting the supply chain concerns worked out, so we have the test kits, so the testing - which will be taking place in school buildings - is being done by trained folks, the nurses in the buildings are getting the training they need to make it happen,” said Steve Todd, Superintendent of Jefferson-Lewis BOCES.

Todd cautioned that it will be a few more weeks before the school testing system is ready, because schools across the state are all trying to do the same thing, which puts a strain on the two private companies which process the tests.

The testing will be for both people exposed to COVID and school staff members who are not vaccinated. Todd expects to be busy.

“We’re hopeful that this surge with the Delta variant will pass before too long and there will be a lot less diagnostic testing necessary. But in the short term right now I think there’s quite a lot of it going on.”

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