When should you get tested? Local testing sites overwhelmed amid Omicron surge


AUGUSTA, Ga. (WJBF)– The Omicron variant is circulating in our area—driving up the number of cases and hospitalizations. Local COVID testing sites are overwhelmed with an influx of people.

Wednesday, there were 78 COVID inpatients at AU Health.

“In the last two or three weeks, over 80 percent of these infections are caused by the Omicron variant, the newest variant,” Infectious disease specialist at AU Health, Dr. Rodger MacArthur said. “85 percent of our hospitalized patients have not been vaccinated.”

With the variant in our area– and post holiday get togethers– many people are looking to get tested for COVID.

“The stores are running out of the tests, but they’re getting resupplied frequently. The testing sites are seeing a big increase in the number of folks who want to get tested, but they still have the tests available. At least locally,” Dr. MacArthur said.

But it can take a day or more to make an appointment, then an hours long wait the day of. COVID testing sites are so overwhelmed, Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp is sending National Guard troops this week to help out.

AU Health’s Chief Medical Officer Dr. Phillip Coule recommends only getting tested when you know you are experiencing symptoms, or are high risk.

“People that are just exposed, it is perfectly reasonable to just isolate at home for five days, wear a mask for five days after that. Certainly that would reduce some of the testing burden,” Dr. Coule said.

You can also shop for an at-home rapid COVID test instead. They are less effective than a PCR test, and it is recommended to wait at least two or three days after exposure or after becoming symptomatic to take a rapid test.

“The rapid test, whether it’s the home test or one where you just put some saliva in a little cup, can be falsely negative in the first day or two of symptoms,” Dr. MacArthur said.

Unlike a rapid test, a PCR test should be taken the first two to three days of experiencing symptoms, as they are less effective at detecting COVID farther into the course of the virus.

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