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Residents Wait In Hours Long Line For Coronavirus Testing While Traffic Causes Congestion, Blocks Businesses

Convertible driving down the road with sign that says "Mahan COVID Testing Station Closed For Today."
Regan McCarthy

Cars full of people waiting for a coronavirus test at the Patients First on Mahan Drive in Tallahassee stretched more than half-a-mile Monday, wrapping around the corner onto Magnolia Drive. One person waiting for a test reports staying in line for almost nine hours, despite arriving before the test site had officially opened. Some waiting vehicles ran out of fuel. Other drivers left their cars to pick up food from a nearby restaurant or even find spots for semi-hidden bathroom breaks.

Meanwhile, nearby businesses are raising concerns their customers can’t reach them because their entrances are blocked by the traffic. They’re organizing a petition asking Patients First to move its testing site to a new location.

Drivers say they’re willing to wait because the Patients First site offers rapid test results in about 20 minutes. Results for a test at the Bragg Stadium walk-up site on Florida A&M University’s campus are expected to take 3-5 days. Those in line said they wanted results faster—in some cases because employers and daycares are requiring negative test results before workers head back to their jobs. In other cases, those in line say they want fast results because they know someone who tested positive and want to know if they're positive too.

Leon County has seen a growing number of confirmed coronavirus cases in the past several days—hitting a spike of 49 new cases Friday. The most recent data from the Leon County Department of Health shows 11 new cases confirmed Sunday. That's compared to two new cases confirmed the Sunday before that.

Bragg stadium is also seeing long lines. The testing center had closed access to its line Monday by about 3:00 p.m. even though the site is open until 6:00 p.m. A line snaked through part of the parking lot as many held umbrellas in an effort to give themselves some shade in the heat.

Patients First also closed access to its line early. It used an open convertible with a sign in the back reading "Mahan COVID testing location closed for today," to signal where the line ended.

The Tallahassee Democrat reports a Patients First spokesperson said the company is “in talks” to move to a new location, such the Northwood Center. Tallahassee Memorial Healthcare closed a testing site there in May. In a statement TMH says the decision came as “a number of other resources in the community” came available for testing.

In an email to City Manager Reese Goad and Police Chief Lawrence Revell, Deputy Chief of Police Jason Laursen says the police department has been in contact with representatives from Patients First and the city's real estate management department "to discuss the possibility and logistics of any city owned property that the facilities testing program could move to that would support the recent influx of patients."

Follow @Regan_McCarthy

Regan McCarthy covers healthcare and government in Tallahassee, Florida. She is the Assistant News Director for WFSU Public Media.

Phone: (850) 645-6090 | rmccarthy@fsu.edu

Find complete bio, contact info, and more stories here.