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UNLV testing site draws ‘biggest rush’ as omicron surges

Updated December 27, 2021 - 8:00 am

Las Vegas’ only major COVID-19 testing site experienced what officials called record-breaking demand on Sunday night, as lines caused traffic delays and hourslong waits.

The site, which offered drive-thru and walk-up testing and vaccinations at a parking lot near the UNLV campus, usually conducts about 250 tests per day, said Army National Guard Lt. Kris Hayman, who oversees the site.

“This is the biggest rush we’ve had, ever,” Hayman said.

Testing and COVID-19 vaccinations had been shut down at the site for most of the holiday week. But Hayman and Joshua Lusch, the branch director who works with the Clark County Fire Department, said it was difficult to expect the number of people who poured in Sunday evening.

By 7 p.m., the site had already conducted 375 tests, serving people that had arrived in the first hour and a half that tests and vaccines were offered. Officials said the eventual number, which would be significantly higher, was expected to be the highest single-day number the site has seen since it opened in early October.

The county has opened other testing sites around the valley, but the UNLV location is normally open after hours, from 5:30 p.m. to 10:30 p.m. Mondays through Thursdays. It opened Sunday because it had been closed during the last week.

Hayman and Lusch said the uptick in demand was likely a combination of the site reopening and the demand after the holiday.

The demand also comes as major COVID-19 metrics in Clark County have surged, driven by the holiday season and the contagious omicron variant. On Thursday, the county recorded its highest single-day increase in new cases in nearly five months.

Ten Nevada National Guardmembers conducted drive-through tests, with about 65 people helping to run the testing sites. That’s a far cry from the 500 National Guard members deployed to run the sites at the beginning of the pandemic and through the opening of mass vaccination sites around the valley.

Traffic slowed to a near standstill on Tropicana Avenue near University Center Drive, backed up as far as the Harry Reid International Airport. Even with additional help from the Metropolitan Police Department and a fire engine that officials called in for support, people in vehicles had to endure multi-hour waits to get a test.

“It’s never been this crazy,” Lusch said. “We’ve just got to adapt.”

Contact Jonah Dylan at jdylan@reviewjournal.com. Follow @TheJonahDylan on Twitter.

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