Hospitals see rise in COVID-19 testing ahead of holiday season

Hospitals see rise in COVID-19 testing ahead of holiday season

EVANSVILLE, Ind. (WFIE) - With many families anxious to reunite for the holiday, health officials say some people are leaning on a negative COVID-19 test as a green light to see extended family members.

Health officials warn - not so fast.

Officials with both Deaconess Health System and Ascension St. Vincent say they have seen an increase in COVID-19 testing over the last week or so, and they believe the holidays play a part in the large turn-out at testing sites.

“We definitely have seen an increase in the volume at all of our drive-through locations,” says Phil Gamble, laboratory clinical director at Deaconess Health System.

Gamble says the hospital has administered 10,000 tests in the last seven days.

“This last week is by far the busiest week we’ve ever had,” says Gamble.

Health care professionals say they cannot directly attribute the spike in testing to the Thanksgiving holiday, but they believe it plays a part.

Many travelers hoping a negative COVID-19 test is the answer to visiting family this holiday.

Health officials disagree.

“COVID tests are not perfect,” says Dr. Heidi Dunniway, regional chief medical officer at Ascension St. Vincent said. “There are people who have the virus that actually will test negative. They unknowingly pass it on to people that they love the most. So, we really are encouraging everyone to celebrate this Thanksgiving with your immediate family.”

Doctors describe a coronavirus test as a snapshot of your COVID-19 status at that exact moment, and the virus can spread anytime, anywhere.

“You can’t base your lifestyle on one test result,” says Gamble, “so a negative test result today certainly doesn’t mean you shouldn’t wear a mask. Try to stay in those really small pods of close family members, and just try to be safe for the day.”

Officials with Deaconess say both their Lynch Road and Henderson locations will be open on Thanksgiving Day for testing.

Dr. Dunniway says it is not too early to start making safe plans for the winter holidays, even if that means a virtual Christmas for 2020.

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