COVID-19 testing site at Balloon Fiesta Park closes early due to high demand

Coronavirus New Mexico

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – The pandemic is changing how people spend the Fourth of July weekend, with many people having to spend the observed holiday on Friday in a COVID-19 testing line. So many people lined up to get tested at Balloon Fiesta Park, Presbyterian, which runs the testing site, had to close it up early on Friday and turn people away.

“I knew it was going to be bad, I didn’t know it was going to be this bad,” said Anne Laun, who had gotten in line around 7:30 a.m and was still in line around 11:30 a.m.

By 11 a.m., the average wait time was four hours. Presbyterian decided to close the site around then to ensure that people in line could get tested by 3 p.m. when the site typically closes. There were so many people wanting tests, at times there was traffic backed up on San Mateo to get into the COVID-19 line.

Kevin Worley, who was getting a COVID-19 test as a requirement before an upcoming surgery on Monday, had to wait hours despite having an appointment.

“I’m supposed to be fast-tracked. They said I wouldn’t have to wait more than a half-hour. Now they’re telling me it’s going to be six hours,” he said. “I’ve been sitting at home waiting for this surgery, being a good guy and not going out and now I got to wait in a line because of these people who go out and party every day and now think they have the virus.”

People in line said they were getting tested for a number of reasons including for upcoming surgeries, because they had come into contact with someone who tested positive, and that the day off was a good day to do it. Presbyterian can’t pinpoint what exactly is leading to the recent increase in long lines but attributes it largely to New Mexicans getting back from traveling or preparing to travel.

In response to the high demand for tests, the state said it’s always a good thing to see more New Mexicans getting tested since it can help contain cases and the spread of the virus. They are reminding people a negative test does not give a pass to socialize and gather, especially over the holiday weekend.

“If a person gets tested, and then gathers in a big group this holiday weekend, their test results that come back on Monday are much less helpful. To be clear, New Mexicans should continue getting tested – but it is also essential that they continue social distancing, not gather in groups, especially this holiday weekend, and keep wearing masks,” the state said in-part in an emailed statement.

According to Presbyterian, they have about 800 available tests on any given day at Balloon Fiesta Park. The testing site at Balloon Fiesta Park will be back open on July 4 at 7 a.m. For a list of more testing sites, click here.

New Mexico Coronavirus Resource Guide

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