Tampa Bay health experts offer advice on COVID testing ahead of Thanksgiving holiday

Posted at 5:59 PM, Nov 24, 2020

TAMPA, Fla.—The demand for COVID-19 testing is surging as families get ready to gather for the Thanksgiving holiday. On Tuesday, sites again reached capacity and saw long lines in the Tampa Bay area.

At the Raymond James site, people waited for over an hour to get a test before the holiday.

“This is the first time just for going out of town. I’m fine otherwise, but just getting checked,” said Nathan Porto.

On the lab front, Quest Diagnostics said the nationwide surge in COVID-19 cases is contributing to a growing demand for its testing services. It explained that among other factors is pressuring its testing capacity, causing result delays. Quest Diagnostics said its average turnaround time is about two to three days for all patients.

The Florida Division of Emergency Management tells ABC Action News, at this time, neither Raymond James nor the Tropicana Field site has reported delays in test result turnaround time.

Distinguished USF Health professor Dr. Thomas Unnasch explains when you get your results, they’re like a snapshot in time for the moment you’re getting the test.

“It certainly will tell you right now that you’re not infectious, and that’s a nice thing to know, but it’s not going to really promise you that the next day you might actually turn out to be infectious at that point, so it’s not a perfect solution,” said Dr. Unnasch. “It’s certainly reassuring, but it’s not a perfect solution.”

So what do you do if you don’t have results in time for Thanksgiving? Dr. Unnasch explains.

“I would do the same thing that you’re going to be doing if you didn’t have a test, which is to try and wear the masks as much as possible, spend as much time in well-ventilated areas as much as possible. If you’re having family coming here, having your dinner outdoors,” said Unnasch.

USF Health professor Dr. Marissa Levine says from the time you get tested to the time you’re around other people also matters.

“If you get a test, but then you travel, and you’re around a lot of people in an airport, on a train whatever, then the test may be meaningless at that point regardless of what the result is,” said Levine.

Dr. Levine explains people need to be educated and informed about their own risks and what will decrease the risk of COVID-19 spread.

“We have a fire right now going on in the United States and it's called COVID, and if we’re not careful we’re going to pour gasoline on that fire," said Levine.