BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) – The demand for COVID-19 tests has has been high across Western New York.

Lines at testing centers and urgent cares are sometimes stretching out the door. In response to the high demand for tests and rising covid rates Governor Kathy Hochul is opening up several mass testing sites across the state, including in Western New York.

The first testing site opened up Tuesday at the Northwest Buffalo Community Center on 155 Lawn Avenue. The tests are the rapid antigen tests and they are free. Later this week, the state is opening up two more mass testing sites – one at the University at Buffalo and the other at Buffalo State College.

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Lyndsey Normand with WellHealth, a company that’s running the testing at the Northwest site for the state, says the first day of testing went well. They did nearly 200 tests in the first hour of opening.

“Some folks are looking to confirm symptoms they already have, maybe they have a known contact and they want to identify if they are currently positive,” said Normand. “Maybe they’re looking for an opportunity to get a negative to return to work.”

Local health experts say the increased drive to get tested is in part due to the omicron variant.

“The omicron variant is causing a lot of infection. It is a highly transmissible disease and we’re seeing a lot more infection in the community,” said Dr. Tim Murphy, University at Buffalo infectious disease expert. “So, I think people are being responsible. They’re having symptoms and they’re getting tested.”

Murphy said getting tested is good, but getting vaccinated and boosted is better.

“A person who is unvaccinated is five times more likely to get infected, six times more likely to get hospitalized and 14 times more likely to die if they get the coronavirus omicron variant,” Murphy said. “So, vaccines are working very well to prevent severe disease, to prevent hospitalization and to prevent death.”

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Walk-ins are also permitted.

Angelica Morrison is an award-winning reporter who has been part of the News 4 team since 2019. See more of her work here.

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