Milwaukee police, security at COVID testing sites after altercations

The Milwaukee Police Department and security companies are providing COVID-19 test site security after reports of some altercations and line cutting.

"Be kind" is the simple two-word plea from the Milwaukee Health Department amid high demand for testing.

Again Tuesday, Jan. 4, FOX6 News saw cars lined up around blocks to get a test at the Milwaukee health centers and community testing sites.

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Waiting is a little easier when you’ve got someone by your side.

"This is Luna, my partner in crime," said Yanire Acra, of Milwaukee, with her dog on Tuesday. "It just feels nice to have somebody with me."

Many Milwaukee residents are thinking about those outside the car, too, as they line up to get tested for COVID-19.

"I’ll be able to sleep better at night and not feel like I’m spreading it to everybody," said Acra.

But not everyone is keeping others in mind at the busy testing sites. The Milwaukee Health Department said people have tried to cut in line and even caused altercations with staff and others waiting for a test.

"That’s ridiculous, and it’s kind of disheartening just because like, the time’s already so crazy," said Acra. "We don’t need to add more to it. Just be patient. Wait your turn."

"We understand the demand is high, and the lines are long and uncertainty and stress certainly causes heightened emotions," said Milwaukee Health Commissioner Kirsten Johnson.

The health department is heightening security, with police on scene at community testing sites.

"I know there have been some threats of violence, so again, we have stepped up our security, and the Milwaukee Police Department has been tremendous partners assisting at all three sites," said Johnson.

Officials say the vast majority in line are being patient and considerate of others.

"Just want to take care of everybody else, honestly," said Acra.

If someone cuts in line or causes an altercation, they’ll be asked to go to the end of the line or leave.

Security at Hayat Pharmacy

The recent surge in COVID-19 cases has caused similar trouble at Hayat Pharmacy, where cars wrapped around the parking lot near 8th and Layton on Tuesday.

The omicron variant and post-holidays testing have created wait times up to three hours long.

"We’ve really never seen any line like this before," said Tamir Kaloti, Hayat Pharmacy president. "We’ve been hiring additional people. We’ve been relocating people from other departments to help with testing, and it’s all hands on deck."

COVID-19 testing lines outside Hayat Pharmacy

Before the holiday season, pharmacy workers tested about 200 people per day. Now, the average is at roughly 2,500 – and some people in line are losing their patience.

"With the long lines, we’ve had a lot of disruption from people that are impatient, trying to cut the line, and that has led us to hire a private security company," Kaloti said.

Security guards manage the traffic and additional staff members are just a few ways the pharmacy is handling the demand. Employees are working longer hours, and the pharmacy is now open 24/7 to help with wait times during the day.

"A lot of people who came to get tested actually offered to help with testing others," said Kaloti.

Security manages COVID-19 testing lines at Hayat Pharmacy

Hayat Pharmacy is asking people to remain patient as they work as fast as possible. For some getting tested, it is well worth the wait.

"I expected to get in faster because of the appointment. Didn’t mind waiting. I have some tunes going. It’s worth it to me," Cudahy resident Leslie Weber said.

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Hayat Pharmacy is also offering at-home tests and free PCR tests. They recommend making an appointment online to help with wait times.

Milwaukee Health Department testing site locations and hours can be found at Milwaukee.gov/covidtesting. Additional free testing sites throughout Milwaukee County can be found at HealthyMKE.com/testing.

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