CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas — It was their first time seeking COVID-19 tests, and the experience was off to a bad start.
“About an hour,” Morgan Spear responded when asked how long he'd been waiting in line in his car at a testing site at the intersection of South Padre Island Drive and Airline Road.
"Forever," his car-mate Belinda Urtado said.
A rush on novel coronavirus tests wasn't unique to that location on Monday. The usual clinic that the Corpus Christi-Nueces County Public Health District put on at the old Christus Spohn Memorial Hospital site also saw an unusually large crowd.
"A couple of weeks ago, we were averaging 18 people a day that were coming through our lines to get tested," Director of Public Health Annette Rodriguez said. "Today we had 217 people that came through our line between the hours of 9 and 2."
The increase can be credited to a number of sources. Some people are concerned that they may have been exposed to COVID-19 during Christmas gatherings. Others want to know if they'd test positive before going to New Year's Eve gatherings.
And then there's the Omicron variant which has still not been detected in Nueces County.
Rodriguez says it's not a matter of if, but when Omicron will arrive, and she's urging people to get tested and follow coronavirus safety precautions.
"Some people think, ‘Oh, it’s like the flu,’ she said. "But it’s mutating. And as it mutates, it can become more transmissible — but it can also become more severe."
With that in mind, Spear and Urtado decided to wait it out and get tested.
“I feel, you know, little symptoms," Urtado said. "So I'd like to just make sure. I know that it’s that I’m tired from the holidays — but just to be safe."
“The doctor just recommended that it’s a good idea,” Spear said.
Holiday scheduling limits the availability of testing from the health department, but there are still several opportunities this week.
Testing is also available at some pharmacies on an appointment-only basis, and home-test kits can also be found at some stores.