Long Lines, High Demand for Coronavirus Testing Ahead of the Holidays

Officials warn that the safest way to celebrate Thanksgiving is with household members only, or virtually, as coronavirus cases and the demand for testing continues to rise

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In the thick of a second surge and with the holidays around the corner, lines are growing longer at COVID-19 testing lines across the state.

Four to five hour wait times have accumulated in Lawrence, where long lines of people have been looking to get tested for coronavirus over the past couple of days.

One site at Lawrence General Hospital is opening an hour earlier Wednesday to try to accomodate the demand. The free testing site will now open at 8 a.m. until 4:30 p.m., with plans to turn people away if the line reaches a two hour wait time.

But Lawrence isn't the only community with lines to get checked for coronavirus.

Cars wrapped around the TJX headquarters parking lot in Framingham Tuesday, temporarily shutting it down. A nearby coronavirus testing site sees as many as 600 people per day. The average wait time Tuesday morning was more than an hour. 

Cars packed a Framingham parking lot Tuesday as people waited to be tested for coronavirus.

The long lines have captured Gov. Charlie Baker’s attention.

“I do think as we move through the rest of this year, you will see us working to try and get some latitude from the feds to do some things that will help with respect to the lines we have now around our existing testing protocols," Baker said during a Tuesday news conference.

Baker said his administration is "making progress on creating additional testing capacity that gets beyond the traditional way it's been done to date," including that he expects to receive a few million 15-minute tests developed by Abbott when they are ready for distribution.

Meanwhile, public officials continue to urge people against traveling and hosting or attending large gatherings as the holiday season approaches.

The state has issued specific guidelines for Thanksgiving during COVID-19, suggesting that families should only gather with members of their household, or else hold a virtual gathering with other members of their family.

"The science on this one's pretty clear -- gathering in groups indoors for an extended period of time with family and friends is likely the worst possible scenario for spreading the virus," Baker said earlier this month.

Mayor Marty Walsh encourages Boston residents to get tested before and after Thanksgiving, and to follow COVID-19 guidelines to stop the spread.

On Tuesday, Mayor Marty Walsh warned that a shutdown of the economy and a ban on indoor dining are among the measures that could be taken if coronavirus cases continue to rise in Boston.

He said the recent surge appears to be mostly related to cases in the workplace and as a result of private gatherings. Walsh warned that Thanksgiving could be another super spreader if people don't heed his advice.

"We're not at a point yet where we have to shut everything down. The last resort would be to shut things down right now, and we're headed toward that last resort," Walsh said at his coronavirus briefing.

The mayor said metrics show daily COVID-19 cases in Boston are starting to look like they did when the city was at its peak in April and May.

"We need to continue to stay focused on turning this trend around," Walsh said.

Walsh urged residents to spend the holiday only with their current household, and if they do gather with extended family to keep it to 10 people or fewer, wearing masks and social distancing when indoors.

As coronavirus cases climb in Boston and nationwide, Mayor Marty Walsh is urging people to take precautions to curb the spread.

Meanwhile, Massachusetts reported 2,263 new confirmed coronavirus cases Monday and an additional 20 deaths.

There have now been 10,130 confirmed deaths and 186,774 cases, according to the Massachusetts Department of Public Health. Another 230 deaths are considered probably linked to COVID-19.

The percentage of coronavirus tests coming back positive, on average, remains at 3.2%, according to the report.

The number of patients hospitalized for COVID-19 has increased to 835. Of that number, 159 were listed as being in intensive care units and 73 are intubated, according to DPH.

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