Winter storm, demand for COVID-19 tests close some sites

CHARLOTTE — As COVID-19 cases continue to skyrocket across the United States, testing lines are growing longer every day.

On Monday morning, each of StarMed Healthcare’s locations in Charlotte delayed opening by three hours because of high winds and rain as a winter storm swept across the Carolinas. The South Boulevard site was closed for the day because of wind damage.

StarMed also said all of its Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools testing locations will remain closed Monday.

StarMed shut off its lines at its East testing location (Central Avenue) about one hour after it opened Monday afternoon, because workers had to get through the line of hundreds of cars.

The healthcare company was also forced to shut down its Tuckaseegee Road location at 4 p.m. due to demand.

Lines grow ahead of and during New Year’s weekend

On Sunday, the Tuckaseegee Road site opened at 8:30 a.m., but officials said cars started lining up at around 5 a.m. Staff members estimated that they performed about 3,000 to 4,000 tests on Sunday.

“Normally, I would have gotten a rapid test, but those are sold out in a lot of stores, so this was kind of our only option to come and wait,” said Sarah Kline, who was in line to get tested Sunday.

Officials said they are excepting to see long lines at testing sites throughout the rest of the week.

Last Thursday, StarMed officials said that Charlotte-Mecklenburg police had to suspend operations for 30 minutes at the Mecklenburg County Health Department testing and vaccination site due to a line of cars that stretched onto the main road.

CMPD needed the time to clear the line, and operations were set to resume shortly after.

StarMed CEO Mike Estramonte said he doesn’t think the need for testing will slow down soon, with possible surges in the near future.

“Just be patient with the process,” he said.

Last Wednesday, StarMed officials said that more than 20 of their employees had tested positive for COVID-19. Those employees were pulled from the front lines, officials with the organization said.

“We’re willing to take any help we can get right now,” Estramonte said.

StarMed said it will continue to hire new staff members to ensure testing gets done, about 30 workers a day.

The reported cases came after StarMed saw long lines at their COVID-19 testing sites over the Christmas weekend. Estramonte told Channel 9 the sites saw lines that exceeded those from the same time last year. On Thursday morning, the wait time at the Tuckaseegee Road location was about 2 1/2 hours.

Estramonte said StarMed received 90,000 more COVID-19 tests Friday.

StarMed Healthcare has opened a mobile unit at Trade and Fourth streets in uptown Charlotte. They also have another location off South Boulevard. Both testing and vaccinations are offered at both sites.

“Usually the COVID testing sites are pretty full, and people have had to wait hours,” said StarMed patient Kylie South. “It makes it easily accessible and that way, you can have your results and you don’t have to wait in line forever.”

(WATCH BELOW: StarMed COVID-19 testing site sees long lines, extended wait times on Christmas Day)