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Hunt For COVID-19 Tests Push People To Wait Hours, Some Leaving Empty Handed

ANNAPOLIS, Md. (WJZ) -- The hunt for COVID-19 tests is leaving Marylanders scrambling amid a COVID surge, spurred by the highly transmissible Omicron variant. 

With Christmas come and gone, and New Year's Eve just days away, it seems everyone is eager to swab their nose after seeing family and before attending the next gathering, should they decide to attend.  

On Wednesday, Maryland surpassed 2,000 COVID-19 hospitalizations for the first time during the pandemic, up from its previous peak of 1,952 set in January 2020. The Maryland Hospital Association on Wednesday asked Gov. Larry Hogan to reinstate a limited public health emergency.

Of those currently hospitalized, 1,657 are adults in adult care and 367 are adults in intensive care. There are 15 children in acute care and another seven in the ICU.

The record metrics are sending people to long lines at rapid test giveaways, hoping to snag a test before they run out. 

The Eastport Fire Station in Annapolis held a testing giveaway Wednesday night, and people waited for hours for two precious boxes.

The station had 400 tests for a drive-thru pick up and 400 for those who lined up outside. Hundreds of people from across the region showed up.

"This is exactly what we expected, we prepared for this," said Nicole Reibert of the Annapolis Office of Emergency Management. "We had many planning meetings ahead of time to make sure that everybody we could get a test could gets a test."

But by the end of the night, 75 people waiting in line outside had to be turned away, and cars in a line three blocks deep were turned away. Some of them were waiting for as long as five hours.

"I pulled up about 2:15, I brought stuff to read, I took a walk I brought snacks," said Arlene Grimes, who drove from Howard County after coming up empty-handed everywhere else. "My daughter was driving around on Monday for three hours before she found a test."

She said she was unsurprised to see the crowd.

"I think its just the demand. Everyone's in the same boat after the holidays, they all want to be tested or they need to be tested."

On Dec. 22, President Joe Biden announced the government would make 500 million rapid at-home tests freely available to Americans. but it is unclear how soon the tests will arrive on doorsteps.

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