ORANGE COUNTY, Fla. — The Barnett Park testing and vaccination site has transformed from sleepy to anything but.
For as much as three quarters of a mile, lines snake from deep in the park to the main entrance as a surge of coronavirus cases has sent people looking for swabs.
At its worst, people said they were idling for three hours, using a large amount of gasoline in the process.
“I mean, where else can I go?” one man said.
While Orange County officials opened a testing-only site across town to alleviate the congestion, it did little to dent the crowds Tuesday. Although most people were in the park for tests, some sought shots instead.
They, too, found themselves in the logjam.
“Why do we have to waste so much time? I come here at nine and get out at one,” Fityme Plaza complained.
The problem lies in the park’s layout. While the testing and vaccination tents are in different parking lots, almost everyone drives into the park through the main entrance.
Until the cars encounter the vaccine tent near the center of the park, the line is one and the same – meaning the few heading to the vaccine tent get stuck behind the hordes waiting to get tested.
That causes concerns that some people may turn around out of frustration and never come back.
It doesn’t have to be like this. There is a second entrance to the park off Pine Hills Drive that almost no one uses, even though the gates are open.
Through that entrance, people looking for testing are routed onto the main road and into the testing line. However, vaccinations can bypass all of that because the two roads intersect near the vaccine tent.
Unfortunately, there are no signs or staff members at the main entrance to the park directing cars to the other gate.
Eyewitness News reached out to the county late Tuesday about this issue. After being told that it would be difficult for test-seekers to skip the line, a spokeswoman said she’d pass the requests for more signage along.
That would please people like Daniel Roundtree, who didn’t have to wait too long to get his second shot shortly before the tent closed for the night.
“It’s free, don’t hurt, quick and easy,” he said. “Get it out of the way.”
Cox Media Group