Originally published in Chicago Tribune, December 15, 2020.

Residents seeking COVID-19 tests have a new free option from the Illinois Department of Public Health.

Appointments must be made online, and the tests are given indoors at the Bernard Horwich JCC, 3003 W. Touhy Ave., Chicago, which is close to Lincolnwood and Skokie. The site has a free parking lot.

On a recent Wednesday in the 11 a.m. time slot, only about seven people arrived for the tests, though the room can hold many more. Most people were in and out within 30 minutes. Chairs are set up in a socially-distanced fashion, and test-takers check in at a desk, then wait to be called to the testing area, where a medical worker inserts a swab part way into their nostrils in a PCR test.

State Sen. Ram Villivalam, a Democrat from the 8th district, said his office worked with others to set up three previous testing sites before this one. At an outdoor, drive-up testing site in Lincolnwood in November, wait times grew to more than two hours, and one day of testing had to be cancelled due to bad weather.

“If we’re going to advertise a testing site, we need to make sure it’ll be open,” Villivalam said. “This site allows for folks to get tested despite weather conditions.” He added it’s not reasonable to expect people to endure lengthy waits.

The vendor performing the swabs, Northshore Clinical Laboratories, expects to provide results to test-takers in three to five days, Villivalam indicated, though higher testing volumes could delay them.

Acknowledging that the rates of COVID-19 have risen significantly in the past couple of months, Villivalam said, “We’re solidly in what’s being described as the second wave. Testing is the first step to ensuring we get the contact tracing we need to control the pandemic.”

Residents can make appointments at https://www.eventbrite.com/e/covid-19-testing-tickets-131355797727.

Testing is available Monday through Friday from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. and on Saturday and Sunday from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Anyone can get tested regardless of whether they exhibit symptoms. The tests are free, though residents should bring their insurance cards if they have one.