By Kristina Rex

BOSTON (CBS) – Lines for free COVID-19 testing around Greater Boston were at their longest ever on Wednesday, as the window closed in for PCR testing that would deliver results ahead of Christmas.

In Needham at the Center for COVID Control, more than 1000 tests had been administered at the small site this week. “Thanksgiving was a rush. This is way more than that,” explained site manager Joelle Ataya. “Our numbers are through the roof.”

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In Jamaica Plain Wednesday night, the line at the Anna Cole Community Center lasted a little over an hour. “I’ve been to this [location] before and this is the longest line I’ve seen,” said Debra McLellan of Jamaica Plain. She’s among thousands getting tested to try to stay safe over Christmas. “We are going to get together for the holidays with some friends and thought it was important that we all get tested,” she said. “A lot of people in their 60s, 70s, and 80s, so it’s definitely important to get tested before we go.”

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It’s especially important in the current COVID-19 climate. On Wednesday, Massachusetts reported its highest ever single day case count of the virus: 7,817 cases.

The Omicron variant “is bringing us to places, frankly, we haven’t been before,” said Dr. Mark Siedner of Mass General. “We are in a place where over 100 million Americans are likely going to travel to see family. Kids are coming home from college. In some ways this is a virus’ best dream, happening in front of our eyes.”

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However, despite the eerie similarity in case counts, there is a big difference between this winter and last, he explained. “Unlike last year when we were essentially powerless to manage this, we have the tools and we can do it,” he said. “I think what you’re going to see is a massive wave. For those who do choose to get vaccinated or boosted, it is going to be more of a pain for anything else. For those who don’t, I am very worried.”

Kristina Rex