A UPMC doctor says masking and getting the vaccine should help reduce wait times and the strain on the health care system.By Chris Hoffman

PITTSBURGH (KDKA) – Outside the Greentree Road MedExpress, people patiently sit.

“About an hour,” Beth Johnson said.

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“This was try number three today,” Karen Yun-Lutz said.

“Of course it was busy. There was already people here at 8:00. I got here five minutes early,” Carla Franklin added.

It’s becoming common at places like this all over the area. In fact, a location on Baum Boulevard recently had a line before the doors even opened. According to medical experts, it’s been a growing problem for the past few months.

“Much higher than what existed before in the year before COVID,” UPMC Chief Medical Officer Dr. Donald Yealy said.

Dr. Yealy says it’s likely because of an uptick in respiratory issues, people gathering together more than they had been and people who delayed care for something minor that has now become a little more serious.

“Put all three of those factors together and you’ll find there the increase in demand,” Dr. Yealy said.

In a statement, MedExpress confirms:

“Like other health care providers, we are experiencing an increased demand for COVID-19 testing services in many of our centers, including our locations in the Pittsburgh area. Patients are requesting COVID-19 tests due to being exposed or having symptoms, to travel, to return to work or school, and to participate in sports and recreation activities. Due to the COVID-19 surge and seasonal illnesses, a larger than usual number of patients are coming in for COVID-19 testing as well as for treatment of upper respiratory conditions including allergies and colds. Wait times can vary based on time of day and demand at that time. We will continue to see as many patients as possible and recommend patients plan accordingly for longer wait times before being seen.”

“It was very stressful for me. Trying to get somewhere, there’s no place available like at all,” Franklin said.

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She was on her second try to get her child tested for COVID-19. Meanwhile, Karen Yun-Lutz was on her third attempt with her daughter.

“It’s frustrating because I feel like these tests should be available to the general public,” she told KDKA.

Both waited about an hour and a half to two hours to get in. While these facilities are always busy, right now Dr. Yealy says the busiest times are usually around when people are going to work and coming home.

“But it can happen at any time, particularly on the weekends,” Yealy said over Zoom.

Franklin said once she got inside, it was clear the staff was working as quickly as possible, but it’s just not fast enough.

“In my opinion, there’s not enough of them for the quantity they have coming in,” she said. “If it was pre-COVID, I feel it would not be that way. COVID — there is not enough of them.”

At this point, Dr. Yealy isn’t sure when the surge could end.

“Actually respond to what’s happening now, I don’t think we’ve seen the peak yet. I hope that it’s coming soon, but I really can’t predict that for you,” he said.

He says masking and getting the vaccine should help reduce some of these wait times and the strain on the health care system.

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Click here for the county’s site for help in finding COVID-19 testing sites.