With a dramatic recent surge in local COVID-19 cases, lines have gotten longer at local free testing clinics and, in some cases, sites have run out of tests.
Loudoun County Health Director David Goodfriend said the increase in requests for testing is a good thing. “As a region, there are plenty of tests for folks,” Goodfriend told WTOP.
Though local jurisdictions may periodically run out of tests at free events, that stems from underestimating interest, not lack of tests, Goodfriend said.
Loudoun, and other counties throughout the region, offer free testing, primarily as a service to residents who might not have medical coverage, or the ability to pay for the swab test.
“For each day we’re doing these testing events, we’re over 1,000 folks,” Goodfriend said. “I think that’s really good news — we do think it’s important, especially now, that folks who think they may be at risk be tested.”
Some pharmacies — including CVS — are offering COVID-19 tests in store, including the polymerase chain reaction (PCR) nasal swab test, which looks for active infection, with results returned in a few days.
A positive antigen test result shows a patient might have antibodies from an infection with the virus that causes COVID-19.
“My understanding with CVS is that it’s by appointment, so it’s a lot more convenient than waiting at the drive-through,” Goodfriend said.
Another option is Inova vehicle-side testing, which is offered throughout Northern Virginia.
“You don’t have to be in a high-risk category or be symptomatic to get tested,” Goodfriend said. “You just need an order from your doctor, and they can test you that same day.”
In the summer, lab results sometimes took up to 10 days. Now, as labs have expanded their capacity to process PCR tests: “On average, we’re seeing two to four days for the bulk of the tests,” Goodfriend.
Some have hypothesized the increased demand for testing is from people who plan to travel for Thanksgiving.
On one hand, Goodfriend said testing of asymptomatic people has resulted in confirming a positive diagnosis. On the other hand, getting tested now can produce a false sense of security.
“If you get your results four days later and it’s negative, that doesn’t mean you’ll still be negative on Thanksgiving,” he said.
If possible, Goodfriend recommends against travel during the fall holiday season.
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