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Longer COVID-19 Testing Lines, Wait Times At ER, Seen Across Southern California

LOS ANGELES (CBSLA) — Long queues of cars waiting hours for a COVID-19 test, and overflowing hospitals were seen all over Southern California Monday, a flashback to troubling images displayed early in the pandemic.

A combination of very sick unvaccinated patients in emergency rooms and hospital workers getting infected with the highly contagious Omicron variant is making for a shortage of frontline workers on the job.

"My ER is completely overrun right now. Folks are waiting 21 to 25 hours there to get a bed if they need a bed, and that's for all patients regardless of whether you have COVID or not," said Anne Caputo-Pear, an RN at California Hospital Medical Center.

A holiday season of widespread travel and gatherings, unfortunately, coincided with the spread of COVID-19, which health experts say is much more efficient at infecting even fully vaccinated and boosted people, leading to high demand for COVID-19 tests required to get back to work and school.

In Boyle Heights, a white tent served as a staging area for testing, while cars lined up again at Dodger Stadium for a test – both ominous flashbacks to the pre-vaccine pandemic. In Baldwin Park, a long line of cars was seen queued up on the top of Kaiser Permanente's Baldwin Park medical center. Further out in La Palma, there was nearly a mile-long line of cars waiting to get a COVID test.

At-home COVID tests are hard to come by in stores, so schools and elected officials are scrambling to distribute tests. Both Orange County and Los Angeles County are offering to mail free home test kits to its residents, while Supervisor Katrina Foley helped hand out boxes of free home tests at Orange Coast College. LAUSD is also planning to distribute tests to each of its students before the spring semester resumes next week.

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