FAIRVIEW HEIGHTS, Ill. — The record surge in COVID-19 cases in the St. Louis area has also brought record lines of people waiting to be tested.
An Illinois Department of Public Health drive-thru testing site at St. Clair Square Mall in Fairview Heights saw lines of up to 800 vehicles and waits of three to five hours Monday.
“I don’t know when the end (of the pandemic) is coming. I wish it was here,” said Herb Simmons, director of the St. Clair County Emergency Management Agency.
On the first Monday of 2022, the end of the testing line seemed as far away as the end of the pandemic. Those in the line couldn’t believe their eyes or the wait.
“It’s atrocious,” said Robert Spells of Fairview Heights. “It really discourages people from coming to get tested, having to go through all of this. It should be more convenient, but getting tested is absolutely the right thing to do.”
Spells said he contracted COVID-19 just before Christmas, despite being fully vaccinated and getting a booster. He said he only had mild symptoms and needed a “negative” test so he could return to work.
Illinois Governor J.B. Pritzker has ramped up free testing in response to the Omicron variant and also in response to continued sluggish vaccination rates.
Only 53% to55% of people in St. Clair County and Madison County, the two largest Illinois counties in the St. Louis area, are fully vaccinated, according to the Illinois Department of Public Health website.
People who were fully vaxed and had received boosters were still among those in line, like Michelle Storment and her husband, Paul. The Belleville couple visited their grandchildren in New York over the holidays.
“We had some family that tested positive. We were with them over Christmas,” Paul said.
“Before we left, our son-in-law was ill,” Michelle said. “He tested at least four times before we went up there. He was negative the whole time we were up there until New Year’s Eve Day. He tested positive. (The wait) is a sacrifice. We just think it’s the responsible thing to do.”
Fairview Heights Police also issued the following warning about a potential “scam” testing site at the mall:
Friday, December 31, 2021, the Fairview Heights Police and the St Clair Square Public Safety Department were notified of a COVID testing sight on the Mall property that was not a state-supported IDPH testing location. The people operating the testing sight were reported to be asking for social security numbers and passport ID numbers. By the time police arrived, the people had packed up and left the parking lot.
Today, officers and mall management were advised the pop-up testing sight was being set up again on the mall parking lot.
Officers were able to respond and identify those who were trying to conduct the testing. They claimed they were working for a non-profit organization out of California. However, St. Clair Square management never gave them permission to operate the testing site on their property. The workers were banned from the property and will not be able to conduct tests in the City of Fairview Heights.
Police urge anyone who provided this organization with personal information to monitor their credit reports for fraudulent activity and to make a police report if any accounts are opened without their consent.
The State of Illinois Community-based testing sites are listed on the IDPH website and are approved for testing, with no appointment required, https://dph.illinois.gov/covid19/testing.html.
The State of Illinois free site is now open Monday-Saturday from 8:00 a.m. – 4:00 p.m. It is a PCR testing site. PCR tests are considered to be the most reliable with results expected in one to three days.