The rain was cold and heavy, but Andrew Hunt's wool socks were thick and his hiking boots sturdy.
When an Uber driver dropped him off in line at a drive-through coronavirus testing site at the Lawrence Township school district office, he declined her offer to wait with him, thinking that he'd be done quickly since he got there 20 minutes ahead of the start time.
An hour later, the line hadn't moved.
"So, yup, here we are," he said, the lone two-legged customer sandwiched in a serpentine line of cars wrapped around the building.
Though most coronavirus test hopefuls in Indianapolis took refuge in vehicles or in buildings, their experiences have been largely similar: long lines at testing sites, and no luck finding rapid at-home tests through the retail market.
Walk-in testing: Where you can wait in line for a test
Hoosiers are strapped along with the rest of the country, which is experiencing a nationwide shortage of rapid tests amid surging demand from the holiday weekend and the new, highly contagious omicron variant of the virus.
The shortage of at-home tests is impacting wait times at testing sites across the state, the Indiana Department of Health said in a statement. It's too soon to tell how much of an impact omicron is having, the statement read, since the variant was only detected in Indiana last week.
As of data collected Monday, there were 3,058 people across the state hospitalized due to COVID. The 7-day moving average for deaths stands at 31.
But the daily tally of COVID-19 cases shot up after the Christmas weekend. On Monday, the state health department reported 5,813 cases, marking the biggest jump in newly reported infections since Nov. 30.
That has many Hoosiers flocking to find tests as a precaution, even if they don't know whether they'd been exposed.
Second in line at the Lawrence testing site, Ray Rettig said that on Monday, he conducted a 200-mile radius search for at-home tests to purchase at Walmart, CVS, Target and Meijer, hoping to be cleared to attend the Newfields Winterlights show with his mother and immunocompromised father. Nothing came up.
He sold the tickets, but still hoped to get a test so he could visit his parents.
"This is, like, completely unacceptable," he said, half an hour after the drive-through site was advertised to begin, but hadn't. "You want to have faith in the government. ... People are trying to do the right thing and diagnose themselves. It's tough enough the way it is, to make a decision to shut down your whole personal life and sacrifice for others, and this just isn't making it any easier."
President Joe Biden acknowledged the nationwide shortage Monday during a call with the National Governors Association, after a holiday weekend of high demand exacerbated by the spread of the omicron variant exposed the administration's shortcomings in preparing an adequate supply. In December, there were 200 million at-home tests available, he said, according to the White House transcript.
"But it’s not enough," he said. "It’s clearly not enough. If I had — we had known, we would have gone harder, quicker if we could have."
The administration announced last week that it purchased 500 million at-home rapid COVID tests that can be delivered to Americans who want them next month, USA Today reported. That's about two tests per American adult.
In general, there should be a much better supply in January, chief medical advisor Anthony Fauci told ABC News on "This Week" on Sunday.
"But that doesn’t help us today and tomorrow," he said.
Today and tomorrow, families like the Millers are re-learning the kind of strategy that was last required of Hoosiers during the days of long vaccination lines.
They were exposed to someone who tested positive for coronavirus over the holidays, so they first tried the testing site at Indianapolis Motor Speedway Monday night with their two kids in tow. They were caught unprepared and snackless for the two-hour wait, so they bagged it.
“This is as long as I’ve ever seen it,” Robert Miller said the attendant told them.
Tuesday morning, they tried a site at 38th and Ruckle streets, which is a small testing center that requires standing and waiting outside — another situation that wasn’t ideal for the kids.
Finally, they discovered a drive-through site at 38th and Rural, next to the Marion County Public Health Department building, through a Midtown parent Facebook page.
“Everyone, everywhere is so busy,” Robert said.
Inside the vestibule of the county office, which was handing out at-home rapid tests to walk-ins Tuesday, father and daughter Clifton and Ta’Shia Phillips stood watching the waiting cars jostle for their spot in line. Occasionally a security guard rapped on the windows of those who cut, perhaps unintentionally, as the line had multiple roads feeding into it.
“People are very on edge," Clifton said.
The two are visiting Ta'Shia’s mother for the holidays and collected precautionary tests before they travel back to their respective homes. Clifton knows four close friends who died from COVID.
Eric Young also saw some family locally for the holidays, and his wife sent him out to get tests just to be safe. He estimated he waited an hour and a half in the drive-through line, thinking it was the line for at-home tests, and not for on-site testing.
“Whatever, I’m here anyway,” he said, just before fielding a phone call from his wife. “Better safe than sorry.”
Word of mouth also drove a small crowd at an IU Health site at 21st Street and Capitol Avenue, where some people had appointments, but walk-ins waited up to an hour.
Sandy Williams only found out about the site when her aunt called her and told her about it. She had been looking for at-home tests all morning — calling the county health department's 211 phone number, her doctor, multiple pharmacies. No dice.
“It was horrible,” she said. “I had literally given up.”
Leah Suttner also found the IU site through word of mouth, on the same Midtown parents Facebook group the Millers saw.
She came with her two kids to get precautionary tests before they see family this weekend for a delayed Christmas. But ideally, she’d like to find more at-home tests. A friend gave her a few recently, but she hasn’t been able to find them in stores.
"People on Facebook say 'this place has them, this place has them,' but by the time someone mentions it, I’m sure they’re already out," she said.
Before standing in line in Lawrence Township, Hunt had searched a 25-mile radius for rapid at-home tests. Then he ordered some from CVS, with an estimated delivery of 5 to 8 business days. He also found an appointment for next Monday.
He needed a negative test in order to get back to work as a hair dresser, since his brother, who he saw over the holidays, tested positive for COVID-19. For an hour Tuesday, he was sticking it out in his hiking books that had taken him across 500 miles of the Rocky Mountains.
But as the cold rain poured, he considered his backup plans.
"I'm probably going to bail because," he said, taking in his surroundings, "yeah, no."
Contact IndyStar transportation reporter Kayla Dwyer at email@example.com or follow her on Twitter @kayla_dwyer17.
IndyStar's Johnny Magdaleno contributed reporting.
This article originally appeared on Indianapolis Star: COVID tests near me: Indiana hunts and wait for tests