SOUTHWEST MIAMI-DADE, FLA. (WSVN) - Days before Christmas, COVID-19 testing sites across South Florida are swamped once again, as health officials confirm the highly transmissible omicron has become the most common variant in the country.
On Sunday night and Monday morning, 7News cameras captured a long line of vehicles wrapped around Tropical Park in Southwest Miami-Dade. This site, also a vaccination site, is currently open 24 hours a day.
Monday afternoon, 7SkyForce hovered above a long line of cars at Miami Dade College’s North Campus in Northwest Miami-Dade.
“You see lines like this, and you don’t know what’s going on,” said Christian Perez.
Officials at the MDC North site estimate they are conducting close to 2,000 tests per day.
It was a similar situation at C.B. Smith Park in Pembroke Pines, where 7SkyForce followed a winding road filled with bumper-to-bumper traffic.
“I come to this site regularly. It’s never been this busy,” said a woman.
Some of the people who came to get tested Monday said they waited up to three hours.
“I’m still trying to decide whether I shoukd stay in line or not,” said a man.
As they sat in their vehicles, the patients said they came for a variety of reasons.
“I was at a party Friday, and I heard someone had COVID,” said a man, “so I said, ‘Let me go get tested before I infect my whole family.'”
“I’m glad to spend time with my gandchildren on Christmas. One is 5, one is 7, and they have not been vaccinated yet, so I just want to be sure that I’m clean,” said a woman.
Health experts do not expect the rapid uptick in cases to slow down anytime soon.
“We’re going to be in for some serious difficulties right now,” Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, told CNN’s Jake Tapper during a recent interview.
Leaders in Miami-Dade and Broward counties said they’re watching the situation closely.
“We are all so concerned about this uptick in cases. We’re monitoring it very, very closely,” said Miami-Dade Mayor Daniella Levine Cava. “We’ve upped our test site hours, and of course, urging everyone to get vaccinated.”
Broward County Mayor Michael Udin said there are currently 11 testing sites and eight vaccination sites open across the county.
“What the data and the science are showing is, if you’re vaccinated and you’re boostered, you’ll have a better result in the event that you are exposed, or you get the omicron or [other strains of] the coronavirus,” he said.
State data shows the majority of infections are the unvaccinated. Only 30% have been breakthrough infections.
“We really need to flood the system with testing. We need to have tests available for anyone who wants them,” said Fauci, “particularly when we’re in a situation right now where people are going to be gathering.”
As fears around the holidays and the omicron variant spread, organizers have announced the postponement or cancellation of several events.
Sunday’s Jingle Ball Concert at FLA Live Arena in Sunrise was cancelled due to COVID concerns.
These latest developments come as a new federal report gives some insight into the recent months of the pandemic. Among the findings:
- Pfizer recipients had slightly higher rates of infection than those who got the Moderna vaccine.
- All vaccinated age groups saw similar rates of breakthrough infections.
- Vaccinated people 80 and older who got COVID had higher death rates than unvaccinated people under 50.
- All three vaccines substantially reduced rates of cases and deaths.
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis discussed the current situation in an interview with Fox News.
“I cannot believe that something that started with 15 days to slow the spread, now, almost two years later, you’re seeing lockdowns and closures,” he said.
DeSantis reassured Florida residents that the Sunshine State will not be closing.
“People are going to be able to live life, they’re going to be able to make their own decisions,” he said.
Local leaders said they’re trying to keep these variants from spreading so quickly from person to person, and they also want residents to do their part.
“You need to make sure that you’re doing what you can do to deal with this on a personal basis,” said Udine.
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