Fear for themselves and families on drive-thru testing lines

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FILE - In this March 20, 2020, file photo, people in protective gear administer a test for the new coronavirus at a drive-thru testing center in Paramus, N.J. Feeling sick and stressed, people in the states hardest hit by the coronavirus have continued to stream into drive-thru testing sites, hoping to get guidance about whether to seek treatment, or reassurance that they arent infected. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig, File)

PARAMUS, N.J. – They climb into their cars in the middle of the night, racing to get on a line from which they may be turned away.

Feeling sick and stressed, people in the states hardest hit by the coronavirus have continued to stream into drive-thru testing sites, hoping to get guidance about whether to seek treatment, or reassurance that they aren’t infected.

So, they wait in darkness outside tented testing sites like the one at Bergen Community College, in Paramus, New Jersey, with achy bodies and uneasy minds, hoping shortly after sunrise they can finally be tested.

“This is obvious, but I just hope I didn’t infect anybody,” said Alexander Carpio, 17, as he waited for his turn.

Mobile testing sites like the one in northern New Jersey, across the border from the epicenter of the U.S. outbreak in New York, were hastily arranged in a scramble to catch up on testing that remains difficult to get, especially for those who weren’t showing severe symptoms or elderly. There are 24 in New Jersey handling about 8,000 tests per day.

As of Wednesday, about 96,000 people had tested positive in the state. Next door, in New York, more than a quarter million people have learned through testing that they are infected. The true number of ill people in both states is undoubtedly higher, as in many places tests remain scarce enough that people are being urged to only seek them if they are very ill.

In New Rochelle, the New York City suburb that was an early hot spot for the virus, a drive-thru testing site was established at Glen Island Park. That still left many people frustrated: Police turned away cars when they showed up without required appointments.

Even those who didn't feel sick were jolted when they arrived at the popular location for picnics and special events on the Long Island Sound, and were greeted by National Guard troops and medical personnel outfitted head-to-toe in masks and other protective equipment.