Doctor: Wait a few days after Thanksgiving before getting COVID-19 test

People wait in line to be tested for COVID-19 on Monday in Cape Coral. (Credit: WINK News)

As Florida edges closer to reporting 1 million cases of COVID-19, health experts are saying you should get tested if you traveled for Thanksgiving or spent a lot of time around people.

However, they say there’s no need to rush out today for a test, but rather wait three to five days after potential exposure. The virus needs time to incubate, and getting a test too soon could give you a false result.

“Yesterday, they flew on a plane, they came home late at night, and today they’re fresh enough to get tested. If they are negative, it doesn’t mean that they’re not going to be positive in that next 14-day window of time,” said Dr. Bindu Mayi, professor of microbiology at Nova Southeastern University’s College of Medical Sciences.

The post-Thanksgiving test rush got drowned out by rain Monday at a testing site in Cape Coral.

Felicia Hansen, who’s new to Southwest Florida, came out to get tested to protect her son.

“I thought it was important to get tested. My son is coming next week from Cincinnati, so I want to make sure he’s safe.”

Even though a downpour temporarily shut down the test site, it didn’t stop Florida’s official coronavirus case count from creeping closer to 1 million, with 999,319 cases now reported statewide since the start.

“The actual number may be more than what we are seeing in official tallies,”Β 

Mayi said that’s because community spread has never been higher.

“Not everyone is engaging in prevention measures – we know that. We’ve all seen pictures, we’ve all seen videos of people not wearing masks or not social distancing, etcetera.”

That makes decisions like Hansen’s – to get tested just in case – more important than ever.

“I have zero symptoms. I’m totally fine, but better to be safe than sorry,” Hansen said.

At the CenturyLink Sports Complex test site in south Fort Myers, half of those waiting to get tested gave up and left once the rain hit, and if they come back in a few days, they’re much more likely to get an accurate result.

“If you’re rushing to get tested a day or two after potentially being exposed, it is not going to be helpful,” Mayi said.

Kathy Raab got tested Monday at CenturyLink and it wasn’t her first.

“Actually got tested before I traveled just to be sure because I was visiting my mom in a nursing home.”

One week after returning to Southwest Florida, getting tested was still important enough to Raab that she waited out the storm.

“A little unsure if we were actually going to get tested. So we waited it out and it worked OK – because another storm is coming in and they’re probably going to shut down again.”

While you’re waiting to get tested, Mayi said you should quarantine to keep case counts from climbing, and playing it safe is especially important now as cases inch higher.

“Unfortunately it’s going up everywhere – so I just try to do what I can do. I wear my mask, I don’t go out and see many people – just stay away from people when I can,” Raab said.

Florida is likely to hit the 1 million mark on Tuesday.

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