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COVID tests lead to long lines

Jamie Lusch /Mail Tribune People line up in their cars Tuesday to receive a COVID-19 test at the Asante site near Fred Meyer.

The latest COVID-19 surge has resulted in a more than 100% increase in those seeking tests in Southern Oregon.

Asante’s Medford location near the south Fred Meyer on Center Drive is seeing 550 people a day lately compared to 230 just before Christmas.

In Grants Pass near the hospital, 200 test collections are received each day compared to 80 before the holidays.

Asante also passed a sobering milestone in the number of tests since the pandemic broke out two years ago.

“We’ve officially reached more 250,000 COVID-19 collections,” said Asante spokesperson Lauren Van Sickle. She said the number includes those who’ve been tested multiple times.

With the omicron variant of COVID-19 raging, more people are trying to get tests, discovering increasingly long lines. Van Sickle said the south Medford has a two- to three-hour wait, while the line in Grants Pass is one to two hours.

Medford police has helped direct traffic for those seeking tests at the south Medford location.

“They’re helping to keep things moving along,” Van Sickle said.

The National Guard is also helping out, so that trained staff can attend to patients at area hospitals as the pandemic continues to fill beds.

Gov. Kate Brown ordered 1,200 National Guard members to head out into community to help deal with COVID-19 cases. Asante will receive about 130 Guard members for its three locations in Jackson and Josephine counties.

Rogue Regional Medical Center had 61 COVID-19 patients Monday and 76 Tuesday.

By the end of the month, more relief may be in sight for local health care providers.

The federal government this week offered a beta version of a new website to order four test kits per household that should be mailed out at the end of January: COVIDtests.gov.

On Tuesday, more than 1 million people ordered tests on the website.

Some glitches were reported, including for those with post office boxes or those living in apartment buildings.

The website asks for a minimal amount of information that should make it easier to order the test kits.

Van Sickle said Asante is hopeful that the test kits will shorten the lines for those seeking tests.

“We can hope that with the at-home testing kits, it will help with the number of people going through the drive-thru clinics,” she said.

The government will be sending out a rapid antigen test, which Van Sickle said is adequate for most people.

A more sensitive PCR (polymerase chain reaction) test is sometimes required in order to travel.

Reach freelance writer Damian Mann at dmannnews@gmail.com.