COVID-19 tests hard to come by in Metro Detroit before New Year's holiday

Hayley Harding
The Detroit News
A line of people wait for COVID-19 tests at the Get Well Urgent Care in Madison Heights on Thursday, Dec. 30, 2021.

Metro Detroit residents on Thursday continued to struggle to find COVID-19 tests or even make appointments to get tested before the middle of next week as many locations close for a few days ahead of the New Year's holiday.

At the Historic King Solomon Baptist Church in Detroit, where a testing site is run by the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services, a sign on the door announced that only those with appointments would be able to get in even though walk-ins were typically welcome, because of the demand for testing.

Nikki Bacigal, who is five months pregnant and found out on Sunday she was exposed to COVID-19, was able to finally find the test she wanted.

Bacigal was exposed to COVID-19 over the holidays, she said, and she immediately sought out a test. She and her partner visited multiple pharmacies to try to find at-home tests.

"We found one, but CVS only had one and we went to a bunch of different pharmacies," she said. "A bunch of them had signs on the door saying they were sold out."

That at-home test turned out negative, but because she is pregnant, she wanted the peace of mind of a PCR test as well. The church was one of the only places still taking appointments when she looked Sunday, she said, and she had to wait until Thursday.

Those who were looking for same-day testing struggled. At the Joseph Walker Williams Community Center in Detroit, one of the places the city of Detroit recommends residents visit for tests, staff there Thursday said they ran out of tests for the day before 3 p.m. They directed people downtown to Huntington Place, formerly known as the TCF Center, where lines were moving quickly but staff said they had seen hundreds of cars coming through.

Samantha Culbertson, 32 of Ferndale, works at an e-commerce warehouse. She said she visited seven different places looking for a same-day COVID test before she finally found one. She was sent home from work after having an upset stomach on Thursday, and managers said she could not return until she had a negative PCR test.

She was able to find a test at Get Well Urgent Care of Madison Heights, she said, but Culbertson still had to wait for nearly an hour and a half, including outside with temperatures in the 30s, before actually getting the test. It also cost her $100 because the urgent care didn't take her insurance.

Culbertson said she doesn't expect to get her results before Friday, and now faces missing three days of pay — Thursday, when she was sent home, Friday, before her test results are back, and Saturday. New Year's Day is typically a paid holiday at her company, but she said that her manager told her that if she didn't work the full day Friday, she wouldn't be eligible for the holiday pay.

"I'm a single mom, so between losing money and having to pay for the test, this is a huge strain for me," she told The Detroit News. "It's just been so overwhelming. In the past, when I needed a test, I walked in, sat down, and was out in 10 minutes. Now I'm in a place where I need access more than ever, and I just can't find it."

Twitter: @Hayley__Harding