Editor’s note: This story has been updated to say that 110 people in line were given business cards to receive test kits in the future, not 1,000. We regret the error.
YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio (WKBN) — Thousands of cars lined up in Youngstown Wednesday morning as people tried to get their hands on at-home COVID-19 test kits.
This is the second time the Youngstown Health District has held the distribution. This one was at the Covelli Centre to help better accommodate the turnout. The first one was held in the downtown area near Otis Street and had such a large turnout that the health district ran out of tests early on.
The first 1,000 cars received four tests, so in total, 4,000 free test kits were distributed. The next 110 people in line were given business cards to go to Wick Park on Thursday from 9 a.m. to noon to receive their tests. Tests will only be given to those who received a business card on Wednesday. Cars need to enter on Park Avenue via Fifth Avenue and will exit onto Elm Street. People do not need to line up early.
Cars started lining up overnight. The first person in line said he got there just before 1 a.m.
“I saw earlier news reports and it was saying that how hard the tests are to get and then they are selling out in stores so you can’t really get them. In New York, I hear there’s lines and they’re hard to get so early bird gets the worm,” said DeAngelo Grissett.
There were so many people waiting, staff with the city health department opened the distribution an hour early. A week after giving away 3,000 of the kits, workers were still surprised by the surge.
“I think, this morning when I was coming in, before 7, they were all the way to almost Indianola. So you’re like, ‘Wow,'” said Youngstown City Health Commissioner Erin Bishop.
“I have grandkids and I want to be safe for them. A lot of people don’t think this is serious, but it is,” Grissett said.
The person behind him showed up only an hour later.
Traffic was impacted coming into downtown. Traffic was backed up for miles from the Covelli Centre, all the way up the Market Street Bridge and beyond.
Some people waited in that line for a couple of hours before getting to the front of the line.
“We came in on 680 up there and, you know, they said come down Market Street. We was up there about an hour and a half on that ramp,” said Youngstown resident James Dykes.
One man even ran down to the Covelli Centre on foot, telling his wife on the phone the kits were still being passed out.
“We got here around 6:30, in the general area, trying to find the end of the line,” said Brad Cope, of Newton Falls.
Youngstown police were directing traffic outside the Covelli Centre.
“Another problem is all the side streets, everybody’s sneaking in and it’s unfortunate because you want to go but everybody is trying to sneak in and they may not have been waiting as long as you,” said Townsend Bendersmith, of Youngstown.
People commuting to downtown for work saw trouble. Drivers on I-680 also saw delays that were caused by the turnout at the Covelli Centre.
Roughly two and a half hours after they started, the last car was allowed in. You’d have thought the driver won the lottery.
“I was honestly, I’m shocked that we even made it. I can’t even believe,” said Amanda Leone, of Liberty.