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'We're Being Especially Cautious': Chicago COVID Vaccine Sites Are Turning Back Into Testing Sites

CHICAGO (CBS) --So much attention has been put on getting people vaccinated in the fight against COVID-19, as its best weapon.

But concern over pockets of spread are leading to increases in testing.

CBS 2's Marie Saavedra reports from a testing site in Brighton Park that is seeing more people than they have in weeks.

Free testing and vaccines has been vital to the Brighton Park neighborhood, filled with many essential workers who can be hesitant about seeking out healthcare.

But something has changed in the last week, taking the lines for testing from a slow trickle to a much more steady stream.

They are some of the most striking visuals of the last year of this pandemic: Lines blocks long full of people wanting free COVID tests.

The majority of those places have closed. And those still open, have downsized. But they are noticing a change of the tide here at Esperanza Health's free testing site in Brighton Park.


"The rush really started maybe the last two weeks."

Shay Facey was vaccinating people, but she's now back to testing.

"There was a need for me to come back in the tent," Facey said.

There is concern over COVID variants. A few weeks ago, they tested about 30 people a day for COVID-19. Last week, they averaged 60. On Monday, all 70 of their appointments were gone by 11:00 a.m.

"We're being especially cautious to see those numbers creep back up again."

Ricardo Cifuentes with Esperanza Health says that increase in demand has lead them to look ahead. There is just one testing lane open now, but room for more, so the infrastructure is in place to triple in size as soon as its needed.

"It would just be a question of getting the staff scheduling them, opening the schedules and booking patients."

Beyond community testing sites, pharmacy testing can be harder to come by too.

CBS 2 looked at CVS Monday afternoon and struggled to find any same day rapid testing anywhere in Chicago. Same thing at Walgreens, where CBS 2 found just a few PCR tests, which take longer to get results, available next-day.

So if you're getting tested, it may be a longer wait or a farther drive than you'd like, because demand, like the case numbers, is going up.

"We anticipate that that's going to continue to be the case moving forward."

To find free testing at one of more than 100 community centers in Chicago, click here:

For free testing by the Illinois Department of Health, including community sites, mobile pop-ups and pharmacies, click here:

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