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Cleveland Community COVID-19 testing site stops accepting registrations due to high demand

More than 1,000 people were tested on Tuesday, but the high demand forced the line to be cut off after three hours.

CLEVELAND — The Ohio Department of Health has announced that registration is no longer being accepted at the Cleveland Community COVID-19 testing site at University Circle. 

The drive-thru COVID-19 testing site, located in the garage of the W.O. Walker Building, is being staffed by members of the Ohio National Guard and the Ohio Department of Health. It is being supported by both Cleveland Clinic and University Hospitals.

More than 1,000 people were tested on Tuesday at the site. By noon, the line was cut short as the testing center reached its capacity.

"The fact that it was so overwhelmed, so quickly, is a great indication of how extreme the situation is," Ohio National Guard Maj. Gen. John Harris explained during a Tuesday afternoon briefing. "The line was cut down after three hours because it was disrupting traffic."

The Ohio Department of Health provided the following statement to 3News:

"More than 1,000 people were tested for COVID-19 today at the Cleveland Community COVID-19 Testing Site. However, due to the overwhelming demand, registration is no longer being accepted. We encourage you to find a COVID-19 test at one of many other locations, such as a local retail pharmacy, doctor’s office, community health center, or urgent care center. Rapid testing kits are available for purchase at groceries and pharmacies, and for free at many local health departments and public libraries.

"We anticipate that as staff and testing capacity expand in the Cleveland area, additional registration opportunities will be available in the coming days.

"The Ohio Department of Health, Ohio National Guard, Cleveland Clinic, and University Hospitals are working collaboratively to continually evaluate the testing clinic and operations to ensure that as many people as possible are able to get tested in a smooth and effective manner.

"Please do not go to an emergency department for COVID-19 testing."

This is what is needed right now in Northeast Ohio: testing sites for the coronavirus. The lines started forming early in the morning, and if the kinks can be worked out, the plan is to open two more drive-thru sites in the area.

"I feel good because there's no available appointments," said one driver in line Tuesday morning. "The next available appointment at a Rite Aid or CVS is not 'til next week or the week after. We just wanted to get tested to be around family for the holidays."

Due to a recent spike in cases across Northeastern Ohio, beginning Tuesday, Dec. 21, Greater Cleveland’s hospital systems are limiting COVID-19 testing in emergency departments to only patients who will be admitted to the hospital.

"This will help us offload the emergency rooms to care for persons with strokes or heart attacks as well as COVID," Dr. Daniel Simon of University Hospitals said.

Despite the chaotic end to the first day of the drive-thru testing site, ODH officials say they feel confident they can regroup and reopen several sites in the near future. In addition to the new location, the Ohio Department of Health offers free rapid at-home antigen testing kits at many locations across Ohio, including local health departments, public libraries and community health centers.

Many pharmacies and retailers throughout the state are also selling self-testing kits. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidelines, symptomatic patients who receive a positive test result on a home antigen test do not need a PCR test to confirm a COVID-19 diagnosis. Individuals that receive positive COVID-19 results from an at-home test should immediately isolate and work with public health officials on contact tracing.

Cleveland’s medical providers emphasize that people in medical distress are still encouraged to utilize the emergency departments or call 911. However, the state's doctors and nurses have remained constant about one thing connected to the COVID-19 pandemic: The best way to protect yourself and others is to get vaccinated.

*Editor's Note: The video in the player above is from a previous report.

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