For months, Ellis Davis Field House has served as a COVID-19 drive-thru testing facility. The federally funded site recently went from 500 tests a day to 1,000 after the site at the American Airlines Center location moved to the University of Dallas in Irving.
"Prior to going to 1,000, we would have people lined up as early as 3:30 in the morning to get tested because it's free," said Jerry Duffield, the fire chief for DeSoto and the assistant branch director at the Ellis Davis Field House testing site.
He said it's a first come first served basis operation, which is why people get there early.
Now, they've expanded the site from two lanes to five and he said they can administer tests about every 30 seconds. But even with the measures, just the sheer volume of people coming in to get tested still results in long wait times.
"Pretend you're driving to Abilene, for better or worse a two or three-hour road trip, that’s what it’s going to be like," Duffield said.
He said people should carry snacks, items for their kids and a full tank of gas.
"People do occasionally run out of gas, or their car will overheat or they’ll have issues and that’s what we’re there for. We're out there and we have a command team and we have our command vehicles and we go take care of people," Duffield said. "We keep a five-gallon can (of gasoline) out there and the support team out there."
He also said there are no public bathrooms, so to be mindful of that too. He said they purposefully don't have portable restrooms because they don't want to cross-contaminate surfaces where people may have COVID-19.
To avoid long wait times, his advice was to go later in the morning, but he said there is the chance that tests could run out for the day.
“Just be prepared, if you go early in the morning you’re going to wait a while, it moves very efficiently the way we’re running it right now. The great news is, that it’s free (testing), it moves very efficiently the way we’re moving things now," Duffield said.
He said it appeared test results are coming in faster.
"I had some feedback from some families that were just tested over the last couple of days and they got their tests back within 48 hours, so that’s much-improved from what we were seeing earlier," Duffield said.
The story of long lines isn't just at public facilities.
Alexandra Diaz and her husband Alex tested positive for the coronavirus on May 6 and had the virus for eight weeks.
"He was feeling the symptoms and then three days later I started feeling fatigued and he woke me up in the middle of the night and I started getting a fever," said Diaz, who said their symptoms were mild and only lasted a week.
"It took a really long time for us to get rid of it. My husband needed two negatives to go back to work," Diaz said.
She said they were trying to get tested every week.
They got tested last Thursday and received results on Tuesday that they were negative.
"In May it wasn't that bad and it was really easy, we went there and called them that morning and we were able to be in and out within 30 minutes," Diaz said. "But, the later weeks, things progressed. We couldn't get a test. Our normal facility was running low on tests and unless you had symptoms, they wouldn't test you, so we had to call another location. it was just crazy trying to find a location that would."
She said they have insurance and used several private clinics, but would still encounter long lines.
"We were just trying to get our tests for work, so we finally went to another location, got the test, but we would have to get up and be there right when they opened at 8 a.m. or 8:30 a.m. to get tested or be there an hour before they opened," Diaz said. "Because if you waited any later in the day, it was just lines out the door wherever you went."