DC residents line up to acquire rapid COVID tests outside the Mount Pleasant Library on Dec. 22, 2021.
DC residents line up to acquire rapid COVID tests outside the Mount Pleasant Library Credit: Bailey Vogt

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The omicron variant is spreading rapidly throughout the world and D.C. has recorded record numbers of positive COVID-19 cases for more than a week. On Dec. 22, DC Health reported more than 1,500 cases. Since the burst, Mayor Muriel Bowser and DC Health have reinstituted a mask mandate, will require everyone 12-years-old and up to be vaccinated to enter most public spaces, and started sending rapid COVID tests to public libraries in all eight wards.

While having fun isn’t hard when you’ve got a library card, few people were having fun at libraries yesterday. Social media was abuzz with images of long lines for the two COVID rapid testing kits D.C. residents could obtain. People reported the line wrapped around the Shaw Library multiple times before it opened. Ward 6 Councilmember Charles Allen took to Twitter and called the process “confusing & frustrating.” Despite this, Mayor Muriel Bowser tweeted over 24,000 rapid testing kits were distributed Tuesday alone.

One of the people who received one of those tests was Carmen Fells. At about 3 p.m. Tuesday, she was near the front of the line at the Mount Pleasant Library after an hour and a half of waiting.

“I had went to get tested at another facility earlier and waited in line for an hour before they came out and said they couldn’t take anyone else,” she said. “I drove over here, got something to eat, and got in this line.”

Fells said she wants to be careful before she goes to visit her family for the holidays. While she says it’s worth it, she says waiting in the line was difficult.

“It’s cold. My hands are freezing,” she said. ”I’m just doing it as a precaution. Okay. Protect my family.”

Jay I. was approximately 50 people behind Carmen in line and had been waiting for 40 minutes. (He asked to not have his full name included because he “doesn’t want it out there.”) He was getting a test because he got an exposure warning. He was extremely blunt about how the rise of omicron makes him feel.

“Like shit, as everyone else,” he said. “The curve seems to be a vertical line, which is not a good sign.”

“I have accepted that I’ll probably get omicron eventually… with how quickly it spreads,” he added. “I’ve been boosted so I’m not worried about the symptoms really ”

The lines don’t seem to be slowing down today either. Social media has shown lines already gathering at the Shaw and Woodridge libraries. A tracker on the DC Health website updates regularly with the number of tests available at different locations. Still, these rapid tests provide peace of mind and, for Jay, a chance to unwind.

“It’s a good, very slow walking meditation. You barely walk at all,” he said.

Bailey Vogt (tips? bvogt@washingtoncitypaper.com)

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