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Officials are pausing registration for free COVID-19 public testing site in University Circle

Northeast Ohioans turned out in force at the COVID-19 testing site run by the National Guard in University Circle. [Ideastream / Marlene Harris-Taylor]
Officials are asking people to come back once the site opens and officials can move people through the site.

Updated: 5:14:29 p.m., Tuesday, Dec. 21, 2021

The Ohio Department of Health has paused access to the registration site for the free COVID-19 testing at the W.O. Walker Building in Cleveland, according to Cleveland Clinic officials.

An overwhelming number of Northeast Ohio residents signed up and showed up at the University Circle site to get tested on the first day, Tuesday.

ODH, the Ohio National Guard and clinic officials are reevaluating how to get people tested after the first day resulted in long lines, traffic jams and people turned away without getting tested.

"Due to high demand at the Community COVID-19 testing site at W.O. Walker Building, staffed by the Ohio Department of Health and Ohio National Guard, anyone not in line currently will be turned away," wrote a Cleveland Clinic spokesperson. The clinic is supporting the testing site along with University Hospitals. 

Those not already in line in the W.O. Walker Building garage parking lot will not be able to get a test today. The site will be open again tomorrow.

Traffic around University Circle remained snarled around midday as an unknown number of Northeast Ohioans attempted to reach a free COVID-19 testing site. 

Streets and intersections surrounding Cleveland Clinic’s main campus were jammed with cars attempting to turn left into the line, making U-turns or just trying to pass through. No one appeared to be directing traffic in some areas.  

Yolonda Davis, a resident of Cleveland, waited in line for about an hour this morning before deciding to give up and leave.  

“It made me feel scared because people started cutting people off, people started honking horns and running the lights,” Davis said.  

Cleveland resident Yolonda Davis stands in front of a long line of cars in University Circle waiting for the free community COVID-19 testing clinic at the W. O. Walker Building in Cleveland on Dec. 21, 2021. Davis waited in line for an hour before giving up. [Anna Huntsman / Ideastream Public Media]

Davis eventually called the police asking them to direct traffic in the area, she said. An officer did come out to help - but the line was still slow moving and disorganized, she added. 

“One, they need somebody out here directing traffic, and two, they should have [given] appointments. When we registered, [there were] no appointments, it just said to come between 9 and 5,” Davis said. 

Davis said she is vaccinated but wanted to get tested at the site for peace of mind as she is planning to gather with her family over the holidays. Some pharmacies in the area do not have appointments for COVID-19 testing until the end of the month, she added.

Transportation head aches began before the site opened Tuesday morning. The parking lot outside the W.O. Walker Building garage in University Circle filled to capacity by 8:30 a.m. Tuesday -- a half an hour before the testing site opened on its first day. Police were on scene directing traffic.

Shortly before noon, vehicles were backed-up "as far as the eye can see" down Euclid Avenue to the east of the W.O. Walker Building garage where the testing site is located, according to an eye witness at the scene.  

The site will be open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. at 10524 Euclid Avenue Tuesday through Sunday, but will be closed on Saturday. 

Patients do not need an appointment, but initially, people were asked to  register onlinebefore arriving. It is not known at this time when the registration will be open again. 

The site will provide PCR tests for those ages 2 and over and results will be available in two to three days. 

The testing site is available to everyone and masks are required. 

The site was announced amid surging COVID-19 infection and hospitalization numbers that have driven many to incorporate testing into their holiday plans.

Demand for testa seems to be outstripping supply. At-home COVID-19 antigen tests  are in short supply across the Cleveland-Akron area.

Video courtesy of Jacqueline Rosenberger.

Stephanie is the deputy editor of news at Ideastream Public Media.