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Mile-long COVID testing lines clog Tempe neighborhood; site temporarily shut down

Amid the high demand for COVID testing, a testing site temporarily shut down after causing disruptions in a quiet Tempe neighborhood.

TEMPE, Ariz. — A COVID-19 testing site in Tempe was temporarily shut down on Friday after dozens of neighbors nearby complained to the city and police department.

Neighbors of the Embry Health testing site near Southern and Price roads say for the past several days, the lines have extended well over a mile and sprawl right into their neighborhood making it impossible for some to pull in and out of their driveways. 

The site is open 24/7 and residents said the lines, which have been up to four hours long, are there day and night.

Others say the long lines have caused safety issues, preventing school buses from being able to pull over to the curb and forcing kids to walk through traffic to board the bus.

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“We can’t get in and out of our driveways," said Rey Covarrubias. “No one’s doing anything about it.”

Tempe's Rey Covarrubias said the line runs right in front of his home. In the past week, he said he had to jumpstart a woman's car which broke down while waiting in the long line.

Covarrubias said another man in his 80s waiting in line to get tested needed to use the restroom so he allowed him into his home not knowing if he was positive or negative with the virus.

Covarrubias said another man cursed at him when he asked him to move so he could pull out of his driveway.

“I got a trash can with please don’t block the driveway," Covarrubias said.

Several residents, including Covarrubias, have constructed DIY signs asking those in line to not block driveways.

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“There comes a point when you've had enough. And we've had enough," said Burke Files who lives across from the testing site.

Neighbors on Files' street also built a DIY sign after they said the traffic has become a safety issue in their cul-de-sac where around a dozen young children live and play.

“When the bus would come to pick up the kids the bus could not pull to the curb like it's supposed to so the kids had to walk through the traffic," Files said.

After neighbors filed complaints and repeatedly called police, Embry temporarily shut the site down on Friday afternoon.

Workers at the site directed those waiting in line to the nearby Mesa Community College testing location which had little to no wait times.

“The sheer volume of people coming out to get tested on a daily basis is setting new records," said Raymond Embry, Embry Health's CEO.

Embry said demand for testing is at an all-time high. He said there were 2,000 appointments made at the South Price location on Friday alone.

They are working to hire additional staff, move the South Price Road site's traffic flow, and allow fewer appointments to get the site back up and running as soon as possible.

Late Friday night, Embry employees were moving cones and signs to have traffic flow through the Rio Salado College parking lot rather than neighborhood streets.

"We're trying to do everything possible to make sure these sites stay operational on a daily basis," Embry said.

In the meantime, neighbors are keeping their signs up. They say they are understanding of the need for testing but say they don't want their front yards to become waiting rooms.

"I don't mind them filling up their parking lots to capacity but not the neighborhood," Files said.

You can find information about Arizona's COVID testing locations here.

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