Milwaukeeans wait more than an hour at city testing sites, ahead of holidays

NOW: Milwaukeeans wait more than an hour at city testing sites, ahead of holidays

MILWAUKEE (CBS 58) -- Health officials have asked people to get a COVID-19 test before gathering with friends and family this weekend, and it looks like people are taking that advice. Demand for testing has skyrocketed in Milwaukee this week.

CBS 58 spoke with people who waited more than an hour on Thursday, Dec. 23. But all of them said it was worth it to keep their families safe.

"Hopefully I could spend time with my family. We're all getting tested. So I think it's a good time to come in before the holidays," said Omar Montes, who got tested at the South Side Health Center.

On the eve of a holiday weekend, people getting tested agreed there's a sense of urgency to make sure their loved ones are protected when they gather together.

"We didn't (gather) last year. And this year I'm looking forward to it, but you got to be safe," said Robert Starnes, who got tested at the Menomonee River Valley site. "I hope everybody does. I hope everybody gets vaccinated and gets tested."

Three city COVID-19 testing locations were open Thursday: the South Side Health Center, Northwest Health Center and Menomonee River Valley site. Lines extended for several city blocks.

Starnes said he waited about an hour. 

Maria Smith told CBS 58 she waited an hour and a half. But she came prepared -- finding a creative way to spend her long wait time.

"I'm making a Christmas dress. (It) goes with my mask and so I was able to pin it together because you use all different kinds of fabrics," she said.

The time in line even allowed Smith to finish her Christmas cards and curl up with a book.

"I think there's just a significant demand. I think we did almost 1,000 tests yesterday at one site," said Kirsten Johnson, commissioner of health for the Milwaukee Health Department.

Johnson applauded the people who took the time to brave the lines. The PCR tests have a turnaround time of up to 72 hours so health department officials said they may not get their results back before their family parties.

"If you are symptomatic, don't gather with your friends or family -- whether or not you get your results," Johnson said.

The three city testing sites are closed Friday, Saturday and Sunday. They will be back open on Monday.

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