COVID-19 testing increasing before Christmas

Published: December 23, 2021 7:18 AM EST
Updated: December 23, 2021 9:12 AM EST

The number of people getting tested for the novel coronavirus is on the rise, reflecting the surge in cases throughout the country. In Miami, for instance, you can see long lines stretching for blocks, and people had booked up appointments at the CenturyLink site in Fort Myers until around 12:30 p.m. Thursday.

On Wednesday, around 9 a.m., the line was spilling out onto the street, the demand for tests seeming to follow the pattern seen when the delta variant first emerged. President Biden has said his administration plans to give away free at-home testing to any american that needs it.

At-home tests are difficult to come by these days, but if you do find one, just how accurate is it? And which are better: antigen tests or PCR tests? Dr. Rebekah Bernard of Gulf Coast Primary Care provided some answers.

“The PCR tests are more accurate, but the antigen tests tend to be much faster,” said Bernard. “And they’re probably the better screening tests for people who do not have any symptoms of illness. So I would say if you’re just doing screening—you’re not unwell, but you just want to make sure—then the antigen rapid home test would be perfectly reasonable. If you’re sick, then the PCR may be more likely to be accurate in that case.”

Lee Health says Lee County has seen a 25% increase in COVID-19 cases in the last two weeks, so it seems many want to get tested before spending time with loved ones in the next few days. Doctors say there’s no one-size-fits-all answer to how safe it is for you to see your family this holiday season, so you need to consider all factors. It’s also worth noting that hospitals are typically very full during the holidays, even without COVID-19, so you may want to err on the side of caution, knowing that there will be fewer resources and longer wait times.

Regardless of your situation, doctors stress that we are in the middle of a surge in cases, so you should keep that in the back of your mind when making plans with family.

“You really need to gauge your own degree of susceptibility to this virus,” Bernard said. “If you’ve been fully vaccinated and boosted, and you’re not a very high-risk person in case you do get ill, then I think it’s perfectly reasonable to get together with others, especially if they are also vaccinated and boosted. If you’re not vaccinated, and especially if you’re high-risk, then my advice would be to try to minimize those contacts.”

There remain plenty of appointments available at the CenturyLink site on Crown Point Parkway after 12:30 p.m. Thursday. While appointments aren’t required, they will speed up the testing process for you.