EL PASO, Texas -- ABC-7 viewers say it's been almost impossible to get a Covid-19 test during one of the worst spikes in Covid-19 cases El Paso has seen. The City of El Paso said over the last week it has averaged conducting 4,309 tests per day.
But despite that number, people report waiting upwards of five and a half hours at certain testing sites. And another viewer told ABC-7 she waited up to 3 hours in the queue while trying to make an appointment over the phone.
“The recommendation is don’t give up, get yourself tested,” said Mario D'Agostino, chief of the El Paso Fire Department which is overseeing testing.
It was a similar message to what he delivered to ABC-7 back in July, when an ABC-7 I-Team investigation during the a big case surge then found that making an appointment was very challenging. At the time, an ABC-7 employee made 17 calls in a week – and still couldn’t get an El Paso virus test.
D'Agustino said the problems El Paso saw in July were the ability to provide testing capacity and a quicker turnaround for results.
Since July, he said the city has been working to "continue to build capacity, diversify our supply chain and expand personnel, to ensure we are ready to meet the needs of our community."
Contracts with private laboratories have since been make sure El Pasoans have their results in a "timely fashion." The city said they also implemented their new Covid-19 dashboard and increased the number of contact tracers as well as building out their epidemiology department.
D'Agustino also said that a new online scheduling system is expected to be completely by late October.
He said more staff has also been added to answer calls after the summer's spike, but an ABC-7 employee called the city's testing line at 8 a.m. Friday and got a busy line and message saying they were experiencing system problems.
The employee finally got through on their ninth attempt, waited 40 minutes in the queue, and then was told they couldn't get a test until Monday.
"While staffing has fluctuated from the last spike from 16-28 call takers, we will be up to 30 dedicated call takers to assist with appointments late next week," D'Agustino said.
"Until there is a widely available vaccine and effective cure for COVID-19, we will continue to plan, prepare and care for our community, as we navigate this pandemic," he said.