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Frustrations mount for travelers trying to get a COVID test in the Coachella Valley

Frustrations are mounting for people trying to get tested for Covid-19 in the Coachella Valley. Some trying to beat the 72-hour deadline for showing proof of a negative test for travel, others need proof for work. 

Long lines and wait times have many fed-up with the process.

"The stuff I've seen in the last four hours here is ridiculous, this is so disorganized and so poorly run," said Todd Renner, who waited four hours to get tested.

Dozens of cars lined up at the Covid testing site at the Palm Springs International Airport. Appointments are required, and you must pay online, but some people we spoke with said it doesn't matter, the wait is long and the site appears to be incredibly short-staffed. 

"It's really hard to get appointments right now, it's really backed up. But, not only that, there's nobody here to let you know, we tried to walk up there and they yelled, 'Get back in your vehicle,' like does everybody have a 3:45 appointment," said Tina & Brian Coughlin, Canadian residents trying to get a test to go back home.

News Channel 3 crew spoke with an employee on site who said they were seeing 100 cars a day and that's now jumped to more than 400 because of the surge. They have a limited staff and are also training new people.

Testing stops at 5 p.m. and people are asked to come back the next morning. The Coughlins were supposed to fly home to Canada tonight.

"We'll get a hotel and try again another day," the Coughlins said.

The Covid Clinic website shows six different tests are offered at PSP with varied result times. They range in cost depending on what you need and how fast you want the results.

For a rapid PCR Covid test with results in two hours, it'll cost you $299. The next available appointment is Saturday at 9:45 a.m.

The employee we spoke with on-site said to try to book your appointment days ahead of travel, that way you give yourself ample time to get the test and get the results by the time you need it. 

Just a reminder to pack your patience as wait times, even with an appointment can be hours long.

We spoke with a spokesperson for COVID Clinic who provided us with some answers to our questions:

Why are people with appointments not being tested and even turned away?

Unfortunately, with the surge, people with appointments were turned away this evening because we simply ran out of time and our location closes at 5 p.m. We do our best to ensure we can give access to COVID testing to as many people as possible and up until today, drop-ins were still being welcomed.

What is their plan from this point forward?

The plan is making the Palm Spring airport site a walk up site, by appointment only. We will not be accepting drop ins until the surge subsides. By walk up that means the appointment will be done at a kiosk, not while someone is in their car, to ensure the lineup of cars is managed during the surge. This will help with traffic and hopefully speed up appointments.

Will people be refunded?

If people made appointments and couldn’t be seen, they can be refunded for the tests they’ve paid for if they don't come tomorrow for a test and have their appointment honored. Otherwise, if they were not able to be seen today, their appointment will still be honored tomorrow.

What advice do they have for how far in advance of their flight should they get their test?

We do not recommend coming the day of your flight. People should be calling their airline and/or looking at the protocol for international travel, depending on the country they’re going to. If they need results within 24 hours, we recommend playing it safe and coming 24 hours before their flight. If they have more time, like 72 hours, come no later than 48 hours before a flight. There is a national surge in COVID testing and positive cases. Labs around the nation are working hard to get results to people in ample time. This is not just an issue for Covid Clinic and this one location. The Omicron virus is aggressive and more people are testing positive at a quicker rate than other variants. We're doing our best to ensure people get access to tests and hope that people will plan in advance before traveling. 

Article Topic Follows: Coronavirus

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Karen Devine

Karen Devine is celebrating her 29th year delivering the local news as an anchor and reporter in the Palm Springs television market. Learn more about Karen here.

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