BINGHAMTON, NY (WSKG)—Thousands of cars lined the streets leading into Otsiningo Park on Wednesday. County officials had set up a drive-thru site to distribute 10,000 at-home COVID tests.
Joyce Halecki waited in her car to get into the park for over an hour. She had been searching for at-home tests in pharmacies throughout Binghamton, only to find that “they’re always sold out.”
Rapid tests have been in high-demand as COVID cases surge across the country. In Broome County, the test positivity rate has surpassed 20%.
As of Wednesday morning, there were 122 people hospitalized, according to County Executive Jason Garnar.
“This is the zenith, or the high point, of the pandemic,” he said.
At the county’s drive-thru site, Patrick Dewing, director of the county’s office of emergency services, said they had distributed around 8,500 tests to drivers by noon.
Each car received four separate kits, or two boxes, of rapid antigen tests, which give results in 15 minutes.
The county was set to end the test giveaway at 2 p.m., but Dewing said he expected they would run out of tests before then.
“What I didn’t anticipate was the 300 cars that showed up early, that we had to stage within the park,” Dewing said.
Dozens of cars were already waiting when crews arrived at 7 a.m. to set up for the day.
Libraries countywide also gave out kits to those who didn’t have transportation to the park. Garnar said that most of those sites ran out of tests in under an hour.
It is critical, the county executive added, residents have access to tests amid the rise in COVID cases, driven by the highly-contagious omicron variant.
“The goal that we have is that, whether it’s at-home test or it’s a test at one of the county testing sites, or state testing sites, that if people need to get tested—they have symptoms, they need to get tested—they should be able to get tested that day,” Garnar said.
The county executive said he is working to increase its testing capacity to meet the demand. He said an additional 25,000 at-home tests for residents should arrive on Friday.
The county purchased them for $250,000. Garnar said the county may be reimbursed by FEMA.
“We just have to be able to spend the money up front, and then we get the money back from FEMA,” Garnar explained.
The county is also expecting more at-home tests to distribute from the state, as well as shipments for school districts.
Non-rapid tests remain available at the county health department and Davis College in Binghamton. A third testing site will open at the Binghamton University Foundation site in Johnson City, where a vaccination site was previously opened, on Friday.