Health experts say even if you think you have common cold symptoms, get a COVID-19 test

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AUGUSTA, Ga. (WJBF) – Coronavirus cases continue to rise prompting more people to get tested. But with cold and flu season here, it can be hard to know when it’s really coronavirus.

Runny nose, coughing and every other common cold symptom could have you thinking it’s COVID-19 and heading straight to one of the many CSRA coronavirus testing sites, which could take time. But should you go and where do you go?

Medical College of Georgia at Augusta University Professor of Medicine Dr. Rodger MacArthur told us plainly, “You need to get tested.”

Dr. MacArthur said researchers have not been able to distinguish between cold and coronavirus symptoms, so even if you think it’s just a common cold, get a COVID-19 test.

“We tried to base it on the intensity of the symptoms. That didn’t work,” he explained. “We were surprised that somebody with a minimal sore throat that had seasonal allergies or had a history of seasonal allergies had a minimal sore throat and tested positive for COVID-19.”

And although it’s flu season, Dr. MacArthur said there have been no positive Influenza A or B tests at AU. In addition to getting tested when symptoms appear, it’s important to get tested if you are exposed to someone who tested positive for COVID or if you plan to travel.

“If you were in the same room as somebody, but each of you wore a mask and the person in that same room tested positive, probably that’s not an exposure,” said Dr. MacArthur. “On the other hand if you’re sitting next to someone at a table for a few hours and you’re eating together, drinking together, taking the masks off, well that’s an exposure.”

AU will test anyone, as long as you give a reason for the test. But, the CDC recommends people with symptoms get tested or those who have come in close contact with a person with confirmed COVID-19. It also recommends those who cannot socially distance such as travelers and those who have been told by a healthcare provider get tested.

University Hospital applies the same policy, only testing symptomatic people at Prompt Cares and in the Emergency Department. The only exception for asymptomatic people is when they are scheduled to have a procedure. At Doctors Hospital, the same rules apply especially since cases and in patient care have increased.

Doctors Hospital Chief Medical Officer Dr. John Farr told us, “So, if you’re not having symptoms we don’t perform COVID testing for you. Testing is a valuable resource and supply.”

As for the CDC’s 10 day quarantine, Dr. MacArthur said the counting starts the day you have symptoms. And if none are present it begins the day you get tested. He said people who received a negative test after exposure still need to quarantine, if possible.

“They self quarantine for 5-7 days from the time of the exposure,” he said.

A drive through COVID testing site may be the best way to avoid small spaces while waiting on a COVID-19 test.

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