Cars line up along Wetmore Avenue in downtown Everett from 26th Street to 21st Street while people wait to get a free COVID test Thursday. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)

Cars line up along Wetmore Avenue in downtown Everett from 26th Street to 21st Street while people wait to get a free COVID test Thursday. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)

Drive-up COVID testing line clogs north Everett neighborhood

City officials are looking to relocate a test site on Wetmore Avenue as demand soars amid an omicron-fueled surge.

EVERETT — City officials want to relocate a free COVID testing site clogging a neighborhood street with bumper-to-bumper traffic.

On Thursday, cars stretched several blocks north of 2606 Wetmore Ave., boxing in driveways and street parking. Some people pulled into the unmarked standstill, unaware it was a testing line.

Site manager Ali Blackwell said law enforcement already rerouted the line last month because it was obstructing a route ambulances use to get to the nearby hospital.

“The week before Christmas it got insane,” she said, estimating that the line stretched several miles at its peak.

When the site opened a few months ago, workers tested about 10 people a day, Blackwell said. On Thursday, they were aiming to swab 400 noses. Some people began lining up at 6 a.m., three hours before it opened.

The Center for Covid Control runs the site, along with over 300 locations nationwide. A sign on the building advertises free tests. And no appointments are required, unlike every Everett testing location listed on the state Department of Health’s website.

“I just feel horrible for all the houses and cars,” Blackwell said. With roads recently covered in ice, drivers in line “were sliding all over the place, hitting cars. And that’s a hit and run, because they’re not stopping.”

Everett city spokesperson Julio Cortes said officials were aware of the traffic issues and were working with the site to find a better location.

“We are still early in the process but moving quickly as we understand the importance to continue to have a testing site available to the community while also maintaining traffic moving in the city,” he said in an email.

To match testing demand as omicron pushes infections to new heights, Washington state announced this week it will buy and distribute millions of at-home rapid tests.

In the meantime, people with symptoms, those who have been exposed and potential travelers continue to muddle through long waits, like the hours-long line on Wetmore.

On the ground, driver and neighbor morale varies.

“I don’t see a problem with it, but I’m on the right side of the street,” said Sherri Peterson, standing on her front porch on Wetmore. “I can’t blame them if they need to get a test.”

Peterson has seen some cars give up after several hours.

“It’s not fast-moving by any means,” she said.

People get out of their cars along Wetmore Avenue to see how far they are from a testing site Thursday in Everett. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)

People get out of their cars along Wetmore Avenue to see how far they are from a testing site Thursday in Everett. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)

Across the street, a neighbor drinking coffee on his porch described frustrated motorists yelling at cars cutting in line.

He recently walked into the street and tried to mediate an altercation.

“It irritates me just seeing it,” he said. “I think people are doing the best they can, but they’re understaffed.”

Some drivers had high spirits Thursday, like a duo listening to The Offspring behind the wheel. They reported they were “just boppin,’” despite spending 2½ hours in line.

Others, according to Blackwell, have been less than friendly.

Some negative Google reviews appear to have been left by people waiting in line. Sixteen of the 42 reviews are one-star, most of them written in the past week.

At the end of the day, Blackwell doesn’t let her staff turn people away themselves.

“I’ll take the L myself,” she said, as in “take the loss.” “I had some angry lady run over my foot the other day … but we have to go home, man.”

The free testing site may end up moving to south Everett, hopefully to somewhere cars can congregate in a parking lot rather than a street.

Then, Blackwell said, as many as 1,000 people a day could get tested.

“So,” she said, “if anyone wants a job … ”

Claudia Yaw: 425-339-3449; Twitter: @yawclaudia.

Talk to us

> Give us your news tips.

> Send us a letter to the editor.

> More Herald contact information.

More in Local News

Traffic idles while waiting for the lights to change along 33rd Avenue West on Tuesday, April 2, 2024 in Lynnwood, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
Lynnwood seeks solutions to Costco traffic boondoggle

Let’s take a look at the troublesome intersection of 33rd Avenue W and 30th Place W, as Lynnwood weighs options for better traffic flow.

A memorial with small gifts surrounded a utility pole with a photograph of Ariel Garcia at the corner of Alpine Drive and Vesper Drive ion Wednesday, April 10, 2024 in Everett, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
Death of Everett boy, 4, spurs questions over lack of Amber Alert

Local police and court authorities were reluctant to address some key questions, when asked by a Daily Herald reporter this week.

The new Amazon fulfillment center under construction along 172nd Street NE in Arlington, just south of Arlington Municipal Airport. (Chuck Taylor / The Herald) 20210708
Frito-Lay leases massive building at Marysville business park

The company will move next door to Tesla and occupy a 300,0000-square-foot building at the Marysville business park.

Logo for news use featuring Snohomish County, Washington. 220118
Oso man gets 1 year of probation for killing abusive father

Prosecutors and defense agreed on zero days in jail, citing documented abuse Garner Melum suffered at his father’s hands.

Everett Mayor Cassie Franklin steps back and takes in a standing ovation after delivering the State of the City Address on Thursday, March 21, 2024, at the Everett Mall in Everett, Washington. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)
In meeting, Everett mayor confirms Topgolf, Chicken N Pickle rumors

This month, the mayor confirmed she was hopeful Topgolf “would be a fantastic new entertainment partner located right next to the cinemas.”

Alan Edward Dean, convicted of the 1993 murder of Melissa Lee, professes his innocence in the courtroom during his sentencing Wednesday, April 24, 2024, at Snohomish County Superior Court in Everett, Washington. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)
Bothell man gets 26 years in cold case murder of Melissa Lee, 15

“I’m innocent, not guilty. … They planted that DNA. I’ve been framed,” said Alan Edward Dean, as he was sentenced for the 1993 murder.

FILE - A Boeing 737 Max jet prepares to land at Boeing Field following a test flight in Seattle, Sept. 30, 2020. Boeing said Tuesday, Jan. 10, 2023, that it took more than 200 net orders for passenger airplanes in December and finished 2022 with its best year since 2018, which was before two deadly crashes involving its 737 Max jet and a pandemic that choked off demand for new planes. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson, File)
Boeing’s $3.9B cash burn adds urgency to revival plan

Boeing’s first three months of the year have been overshadowed by the fallout from a near-catastrophic incident in January.

Police respond to a wrong way crash Thursday night on Highway 525 in Lynnwood after a police chase. (Photo provided by Washington State Department of Transportation)
Bail set at $2M in wrong-way crash that killed Lynnwood woman, 83

The Kenmore man, 37, fled police, crashed into a GMC Yukon and killed Trudy Slanger on Highway 525, according to court papers.

A voter turns in a ballot on Tuesday, Feb. 13, 2024, outside the Snohomish County Courthouse in Everett, Washington. (Annie Barker / The Herald)
On fourth try, Arlington Heights voters overwhelmingly pass fire levy

Meanwhile, in another ballot that gave North County voters deja vu, Lakewood voters appeared to pass two levies for school funding.

Judge Whitney Rivera, who begins her appointment to Snohomish County Superior Court in May, stands in the Edmonds Municipal Court on Thursday, April 18, 2024, in Edmonds, Washington. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)
Judge thought her clerk ‘needed more challenge’; now, she’s her successor

Whitney Rivera will be the first judge of Pacific Islander descent to serve on the Snohomish County Superior Court bench.

In this Jan. 4, 2019 photo, workers and other officials gather outside the Sky Valley Education Center school in Monroe, Wash., before going inside to collect samples for testing. The samples were tested for PCBs, or polychlorinated biphenyls, as well as dioxins and furans. A lawsuit filed on behalf of several families and teachers claims that officials failed to adequately respond to PCBs, or polychlorinated biphenyls, in the school. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)
Judge halves $784M for women exposed to Monsanto chemicals at Monroe school

Monsanto lawyers argued “arbitrary and excessive” damages in the Sky Valley Education Center case “cannot withstand constitutional scrutiny.”

Mukilteo Police Chief Andy Illyn and the graphic he created. He is currently attending the 10-week FBI National Academy in Quantico, Virginia. (Photo provided by Andy Illyn)
Help wanted: Unicorns for ‘pure magic’ career with Mukilteo police

“There’s a whole population who would be amazing police officers” but never considered it, the police chief said.

Support local journalism

If you value local news, make a gift now to support the trusted journalism you get in The Daily Herald. Donations processed in this system are not tax deductible.