LINDEN, N.J. (CBSNewYork) — As the Omicron variant continues to surge in New Jersey, so does the urgency to get a test.

CBS2’s Jessica Layton has more on the struggles many have gone through to get one.

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A line of people about 100 deep in Linden, some saying they were too sick to speak with CBS2, stood in the cold on Wednesday night, waiting patiently for a coveted COVID test before Christmas.

“This was originally supposed to be a peace-of-mind test so people could go see their families. It has quickly in the last week turned into I’ve been exposed and I need a test desperately,” City Councilman John Francis Roman said.

COVID VACCINE

Roman said given the spike in cases across New Jersey — a record 9,711 infections Wednesday, alone — access to testing in neighborhoods has never been needed more.

“Everyone on this line, before they got here, was searching frantically for a test. So they need to get more tests out there. They need to get them into the hyper-local communities,” Roman said.

They’re using the same strategy in Paterson.

“Our daily infection rate is in the hundreds, which is very concerning,” Mayor Andre Sayegh said.

The city is extending hours for vaccination and testing this holiday week with its mobile outreach units.

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“We have a lot of individuals in this community who go to work. If they can’t go to work they don’t get paid. So what do we do? We test them at nights,” said Dr. Paul Persaud, of the City of Paterson Division of Health.

The Omicron-fueled surge is stretching resources thin. In Orange, Dr. Alexander Salerno said he had to close one of his offices after every staff member tested positive.

“The only saving grace, it’s mild symptoms — store throat, body aches, headache, runny nose — not the shortness of breath, not the loss of taste or smell,” Salerno said.

CORONAVIRUS PANDEMIC

In South Africa, where the variant was first discovered a few weeks ago, daily cases are declining, giving hope that country is past its peak.

Dr. David Goldberg addressed this while answering some of CBS2 viewers’ questions on the latest surge.

“The speed of decline in South Africa is very encouraging, but we’re a very different country. So we hope so, but we can’t be sure,” Goldberg said.

Back in Linden, the city is hoping to get people their PCR test results by Christmas Eve so they can have peace of mind as they celebrate with their families, or, if they test positive, begin their isolation period.

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CBS2’s Jessica Layton contributed to this report.

CBSNewYork Team