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Palm Springs airport shifts to walk-up, appointment only testing after day of frustration

The COVID-19 testing site at the Palm Springs International airport is no longer accepting drop-ins. The change Friday came a day after it experienced lengthy delays in getting individuals tested, leading some travelers to miss their flights.

A spokesperson with the Covid Clinic told News Channel 3 that wait times were between 20 to 45 minutes on Friday, compared to wait times of up to 4 hours for some individuals we spoke with on Thursday. The site is currently only accepting individuals who already have an appointment when they arrive. Appointments cannot be made on site. Additionally, the clinic will no longer be conducting drive-thru testing. Individuals must park their vehicles, stand in line, and walk up to get tested.

A long line of cars formed close to the time the site wrapped up testing for the day at 5:00 p.m. on Thursday, creating frustration among people who didn't get to take test they had already paid for online.

Testing Friday afternoon appeared to be running a lot more smoothly than the previous evening. Staff at the testing site-directed vehicles to park and individuals who had appointments got out of their car and waited in line for their test to be completed.

News Channel 3 reached out to the Palm Springs International Airport Friday afternoon and Interim Director, Harry Barrett, said they were monitoring for delays after yesterday. The statement attributed what happened yesterday to a “combination of more people in need of testing, and the need for more staff.” The airport also said it is working with the team at the Covid Clinic to address wait lines. 

Cristina Pedler, a San Diego resident, said the site was operating "smoothly." She added, "there’s a lot more staff than I thought there would be." With at-home tests running in short supply nationwide, locals and tourists alike depend on sites like these for testing.

Anyone interested in getting a COVID-19 test at this site should make an appointment and be prepared to pay. Prices vary depending on what type of test you're seeking, but free PCR tests are offered.

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

1. Is Covid Clinic bringing in staffers to help test from other sites in California? If so, how many and for what duration?

Yes, when needed, Covid Clinic routinely deploys staff from San Bernardino to assist at the Palm Springs Airport location. The amount depends on availability and volume. Typically 2-3 can come if their regular schedules allow and for the heaviest hours, which is between 9 am - 3 p.m.

2. How many staffers are testing people today?

Today we had 2 teams: 4 per team, plus 2 regular PS. 10 total.

3. Are you experiencing a staffing shortage due to COVID?

No

4. How long is an average wait time for someone to have their COVID test conducted right now?

The walk up appointments vs drive up appointments have helped move things along much faster. We were between a 20 and 45 minute wait today.

5. Do you have enough of all the tests you offer on your website?

Yes supplies are always available. We also have other local Covid Clinic sites we can pull from, so we all support each other.

Stay with News Channel 3 for the latest developments.

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Jennifer Franco

Jennifer Franco is the weekend anchor/weekday reporter for KESQ News Channel 3

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