COVID testing site in Luzerne County closed, relocated due to overwhelming response

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WILKES-BARRE, LUZERNE COUNTY (WBRE/WYOU) — Concerns over the spread of COVID-19 have led to long lines at COVID testing sites, and more communities are restricting access to public buildings.

In Luzerne County, a COVID testing site was closed and moved to a larger site because of the overwhelming response. State, county and city officials relocated the COVID-19 testing site to Kirby Park because of the massive response at the original site on South Main Street in the city.

Take a look at the long lines at the shopping plaza on South Main Street in Wilkes-Barre. Hundreds of vehicles lined up. The line even wrapped around the building.

County officials say by far this was the largest turnout they have seen and say the location was just too small to handle the hundreds of people who came for a test. Eyewitness News spoke to a woman who brought her family to be tested and she says she could not believe how long the line was.

“It’s crazy. It’s crazy. When we got here we were like number 12 car and that was at 8:30 this morning. Then all of the drama happened. Three hours we waited,” Tanika Zigler-Harris of Wilkes-Barre said.

So by mid-afternoon Tuesday, the decision was made to close that COVID testing site and move it to a larger area at Kirby Park on the other side of the river.

Luzerne County EMA Director Lucy Morgan confirmed to Eyewitness News that Kirby Park will be the new testing location starting at 10 a.m., Wednesday morning, January 5th. Testing will take place from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Wednesday, January 5th through Friday, January 7, and on Saturday, January 8th from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

Eyewitness News spoke with Morgan about the decision to move to Kirby Park.

“We started to notice an uptick last week in traffic and demand so we made some changes this week to include the sheriff’s department for traffic control and our Luzerne County Road and Bridge Department. And we saw the lines at Nesbitt yesterday so we knew that we were going to have high volume today but not at all what happened today, we did not expect that many people needing a test,” Morgan said.

Morgan says no appointment is needed at Kirby Wednesday, but they have found first two hours are the busiest so she says expect delays.

“Expect delays. We’ll try to get you through as soon as possible, but it does take a while to get swabbed and get your information and stuff like that,” Morgan said.

Growing COVID concerns are once again impacting our region. So much so that in Luzerne County, a COVID testing site had to be relocated because of an overwhelming response from the public.

And the area’s largest county is restricting public access to some of its buildings.

Kirby Park in Wilkes-Barre will be the new COVID testing site. State, county and city officials say the original site on South Main Street was simply too small to handle the huge demand

Zigler-Harris got there at 8:30 in the morning Tuesday. It took her three hours to get to the front of the line.

“So we were around family for the holidays and now we’re back on track and just want to make sure we are being safe,” Zigler-Harris said.

This testing site is a joint effort of the state Department of Health, Luzerne County and the city of Wilkes-Barre. Officials tell Eyewitness News the high demand for the COVID tests led to long delays Tuesday morning.

People who live and work in the area like Steve and Mary Lou Cook from Ashley say they are watching the COVID surges very closely.

“It’s getting worse and I mean it seems like it’s worse than last year. It’s scary. It’s really scary,” Mary Lou said.

“It seems to be going through these different mutations and it seems like you get beyond one of them and then something else surfaces,” Steve said.

Peggy Warmouth from Hanover Township says she always wears a mask when she goes out in public.

“I think this new one omicron that’s out there now is progressing very fast. At least people who have been immunized it’s not as bad,” Warmouth said.

Luzerne County has joined a growing list of local governments and agencies that have restricted public access to some of its buildings and have relaunched some of its COVID safety measures.

“The public should be aware that when they enter a county building, their temperature will be taken by a sheriff. There will be a series of questions that one is asked by the sheriff regarding any recent COVID positive test and COVID symptoms,” acting Luzerne County manager Romilda Crocamo said.

Officials from the state health department tell Eyewitness News this testing site can test 500 people a day with results coming back within 48 hours. But again they tell Eyewitness News the original site on was simply overwhelmed.

It will run from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. each day Wednesday through Friday and from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Saturday.

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