It’s becoming difficult to find COVID-19 tests in Charlottesville. Demand surged this week, and health officials expect it to remain high through January.

Among free testing sites in Charlottesville, as of Tuesday, the Blue Ridge Health District had the best short-term availability. The district increased its supply of tests and officials believe they have enough to test everyone who comes to one of its daily drive-thru clinics.

But lines are long. 

The district’s Thursday clinic at Fashion Square Mall began at 2 p.m. Hundreds of cars circled the parking lot by 2:30 p.m. Those managing traffic and signalling people in couldn’t say how long the lines might get. People near the back of the queue said they had been waiting 40 minutes.

Other testing sites are mostly booked, at least over the next few days.

Many local stores are sold out of take-home tests. Jefferson-Madison Regional Library, which was giving the tests our for free, also has none left. A pharmacy technician at Top Notch Family Pharmacy on Preston Avenue said they got their first shipment of at-home tests Wednesday afternoon and sold out in two hours this morning. The pharmacy is not sure when they will get more.

The shortage is not unique to Charlottesville. On Tuesday, President Joe Biden said the federal government will provide at-home tests and increased testing sites, but not in time for the holidays. Somes states and cities in other parts of the country have distributed and mailed free rapid tests to residents. Massachusetts, for example, announced on Dec. 13 that it is delivering 2 million at-home tests, reports WBUR.

The high demand comes from people seeking tests before they visit loved ones, said Kathryn Goodman, a spokesperson for the Blue Ridge Health District. 

Officials believe they will see a second wave of demand for tests following Christmas and New Year — accompanied by a surge in cases.

“We saw last year a pretty big demand in January and we’re expecting that this year as well,” Goodman said. “That’s partially because of testing after holiday travel for returning back to work, returning to school, or for any exposures people had over the holidays.”

Last year, there was a spike in cases locally in the weeks following Christmas and New Year, mainly originating from people who gathered indoors to celebrate.

Officials expect a similar trend this year, especially with the new, highly transmissible Omicron variant circulating in the U.S. On Monday, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced that Omicron is likely now the dominant variant of COVID-19 in the country.

“We may be through with COVID-19, but COVID-19 is not through with us,” State Health Commissioner Dr. M. Norman Oliver said in a statement.

If you are seeking a test in the area, here are locations currently offering them:

Free testing sites:

Blue Ridge Health District, 434-972-6261, various locations

Offering free, drive-up clinics at various sites around Charlottesville from Monday-Thursday in the afternoons and evenings. Beginning Jan. 7, the health district will host a clinic in town Monday through Friday. No appointment is necessary. For a full list of clinic times and locations, click here.

CVS, 434-245-0003, 1700 Seminole Trail

Offering a limited number of tests to people who either have had an exposure to COVID-19, are at risk of an exposure or have symptoms by appointment only. Appointments must be made online here.

Walgreens, 434-979-9905, 314 Rolkin Road

Offers a limited number of free drive-thru tests by appointment only. Appointments must be made online here.

Jefferson-Madison Regional Library, 434-979-7151, 201 East Market Street

Offering free home COVID-19 rapid tests at all Charlottesville branch locations. On Thursday, all libraries were out of tests. The library expects more tests to arrive, but it is unclear when.

Testing sites that are for a fee or will bill your health insurance:

MedExpress Urgent Care, 434-244-3027, 260 Pantops Ctr.

Offers tests on a first come first serve basis. Patients must be on site and call from the parking lot in order to be seen. MedExpress will bill patients with insurance. For uninsured patients, the cost is $119-$229.

MedExpress Urgent Care, 434-244-3027, 1149 Seminole Trail

Offers tests on a first come first serve basis. Patients must be on site and call from the parking lot in order to be seen. MedExpress will bill patients with insurance. For uninsured patients, the cost is $119-$229.

Primary Care Riverside, 434-975-7700, Suit 200, 2335 Seminole Ln.

Testing every day by appointment only, no referral needed, but call to check availability. UVA Health will bill insurance, but the cost for uninsured patients is not clear.

UVA COVID-19 Clinic, 434-982-6843, West Complex, 1st Floor, Room 1101A, 1300 Jefferson Park Ave.

This clinic is only testing patients who have been referred by a doctor. You cannot make a direct appointment or walk in. UVA Health will bill insurance, cost for uninsured patients is not clear.

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Jessie Higgins

I'm Charlottesville Tomorrow's managing editor and health and safety reporter. If there’s something you think we should be investigating, please email me at jhiggins@cvilletomorrow.org! And you can follow all the work we do by subscribing to our free newsletter! Hablo español, y quiero mantener a la comunidad hispanohablante informada. Si tienes preguntas o información que debo saber, por favor, envíame un correo electrónico a jhiggins@cvilletomorrow.org.

Angilee Shah

Hi, I'm Charlottesville Tomorrow's Editor-in-Chief. I’d love to know more about want you want from local news. Let’s find a time to talk. And keep up with our work by subscribing to our free email newsletter!