Gaston County StarMed seeing shorter lines than Charlotte locations

Gastonia, N.C. — People were lining up as early as 3 a.m. to get tested for COVID-19 in Charlotte, but now even testing centers which normally have no lines are experiencing overcrowding.

Two weeks ago, the line at the Gastonia Starmed location was nonexistent. Wednesday morning, the line stretched out onto Walnut Avenue behind the Gaston County Courthouse.

One woman told Channel 9 it took her two hours to get tested, significantly shorter wait time than lines in Charlotte, specifically the Tuckaseegee location in west Charlotte.

One person told Channel 9′s Ken Lemon that he had been waiting two hours at the west Charlotte location and hadn’t moved.

Another person who was looking to be tested had his car battery die while waiting in line. Once he got his battery going, he got back in line.

StarMed has been running low on supplies at some of their locations, but officials say they are prepared to continue resupplying their testing locations.

StarMed’s Northside Baptist Church and South Boulevard testing sties are closed Wednesday.

More providers stepping up as COVID testing demand skyrockets

Dozens of people hoping to get tested for COVID-19 lined up their cars and trucks in the pre-dawn darkness on Tuesday morning, hours before testing sites opened.

The long lines come as North Carolina’s percent of positivity rate skyrockets, reaching 29.7% on Tuesday -- the highest since the start of the pandemic.

“I just wish we had more ways to get tested,” said Trey Mallory. “You know, Charlotte is big.”

Mallory was back in line at StarMed’s Tuckaseegee location on Tuesday, hoping officials wouldn’t turn him away again.

“One, two, three, four reference codes,” he told Channel 9.

Just back from vacation with a pregnant girlfriend at home, Mallory said he’s tried four sites over three days.

“They got overwhelmed with the lines, the parking lots were crazy,” he said.

It’s a story we’ve heard all too often while testing demand soars. After weeks of concerns, other providers are expanding access.

Atrium Health launched a community testing site along Beam Road, near the airport this week. It’s open from 10 a.m. until 5 p.m. You don’t need an appointment and you don’t have to be a patient.

Others are also stepping up, including One Love Periodic Services off Albemarle Road in east Charlotte. The clinic primarily focuses on mental health, but executive director Troy Veale said he wanted to help.

One Love has swabs but specializes in cheek swabs, which Veale said are less invasive.

“It’s easy, it doesn’t take long to do, and it’s just as effective as a nasal swab,” Veale told Channel 9.

The COVID tests are free and you don’t need an appointment. Just walk in Monday through Friday, like Dominic Lindsay did after seeing a sign in the parking lot.

He told Channel 9 his wait time was only 30 minutes.

“Can’t beat that, bro,” Lindsay said.

He told Channel 9 he’s getting ready to see family and is grateful other places are now helping navigate such a challenging time.

“They’re at least trying to, you know, help these other places that are overwhelmed, and trying to make sure we’re all safe,” Lindsay said.

You can skip the long lines -- if you’re willing to pay

Long lines at COVID testing sites are expected in the coming days and weeks, but there are ways to get around the long wait times.

If you need a free test and have the time to wait in line, you can visit one of StarMed’s many locations -- but there are other options if you’re willing to pay out-of-pocket.

Avant Pharmacy in southeast Charlotte currently has tests. They’ll cost you $129 for a PCR, and $70 for a rapid test.

If you’re willing to pay, you’re guaranteed an appointment and you won’t have to wait in a long line. The pharmacy said patients can use HSA and FSA cards to cover the costs or submit the costs to insurance to be reimbursed later.

Avant’s chief strategic officer, Dr. Saswat Kabisatpathy, told Channel 9 it’s easier for smaller pharmacies to provide tests at a cash rate.

“There is just high demand right now, just trying to get those tests in, a lot of pharmacies are just trying to make sure the tests are accessible and trying to make sure they can get that at a reasonable price,” he said.

People without insurance should still go to free testing sites.

(WATCH BELOW: Local pharmacies offer vaccines, COVID-19 tests)