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Bojangles Coliseum packed with people trying to get COVID-19 tests

At one point, demand was so high that health officials had to redirect people to a second location.

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — With Thanksgiving just a few days away, the rush is on to get a coronavirus test.

While health officials are cautioning against gathering this year, they are also highly recommending anyone who plans to see family or friends get tested beforehand.

On Monday, Mecklenburg County opened the Bojangles Coliseum parking lot to COVID-19 testing. Hundreds of cars showed up, and people waited hours to get a test. 

RELATED: Need a COVID-19 test before Thanksgiving? Here's where to go in Charlotte

Demand was so high that, at one point, they started redirecting people to the Health Department’s southeast location on Billingsley Road.

“I decided as long as I’m tested and okay and they're tested and okay, that it would be safe to travel,” Sarah Wells said while waiting for a test.

RELATED: Families face tough decision: to travel or not for Thanksgiving holiday amid pandemic

Lines and wait times like these during the week of Thanksgiving would usually be at the grocery store or for Black Friday deals.

"We've been here probably about two-and-a-half hours already,” Danny Wilcox said.

This holiday season, for so many across the Carolinas, a prerequisite to Thanksgiving dinner is a negative COVID-19 test.

“I want to be safe, not sorry being around holiday this Thanksgiving time,” Freda Braswell said.

In Mecklenburg County, test results are taking about two days, so time is running out to have the results in time for turkey day.

“I think everyone in Charlotte is in the same boat, wanting to be responsible and get tested, yet they want to gather with groups of people,” Thomas Bennett said.

RELATED: NC Gov. Cooper expands statewide mask mandate as more counties enter COVID-19 'red zone'

Despite health officials' warnings against traveling or gathering for the holidays, it seems many people are still finding ways to celebrate.

“We’re going to do an outdoor gathering with masks and face shields, I haven't seen my parents in many months so we all agreed we would do it but be very responsible about doing that,” Bennett explained.

RELATED: NCDHHS reports new single-day high 4,514 COVID-19 cases

“I will stay in this line for the rest of the day," Braswell said. "I know they are redirecting people over the clinic, but I’ve been here so long. Two hours. I can wait."

Braswell arrived at 11 a.m. and was tested just before 4 p.m.

She had gone to a funeral on Friday and wants to make sure she’s not putting the family members she lives with in danger. Thanksgiving is her favorite holiday but they're playing it safe this year.

"No one outside is coming into the home,” Braswell said.

It's what health officials are begging everyone to do. At a press conference Monday, North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services secretary Dr. Mandy Cohen reminded people a test is not a safety guarantee.

“If you tested negative, that is not a definitive answer or a free pass," Dr. Cohen said. "A test is only one moment in time. Tests are not perfect, and you could be exposed in the time after you got the test."

RELATED: Poll: 1 in 3 parents say Thanksgiving gatherings worth COVID-19 risk

On Tuesday, there will be free testing from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. at 249 Billingsley Rd. in Charlotte.

Through Friday, testing is available from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. at 2845 Beatties Ford Rd. in Charlotte.

Unfortunately, the issue wasn't only in North Carolina. Across state lines, long lines were rampant as well. Testing lines crept along at a free testing site in Rock Hill, South Carolina.