CBS 17 asked an expert your questions about COVID-19

Coronavirus

RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) – Four more states are reporting new cases of the Omicron variant. Minnesota, Colorado, New York, and Hawaii all have cases of the variant, and California reported the first case in the U.S. yesterday.

On Thursday, President Joe Biden announced he wants to make at-home COVID-19 tests free through insurance.

CBS 17 asked what questions you have about COVID-19 testing. We took some of those questions from social media to Melissa Miller, the director of UNC Medical Center’s Molecular Microbiology Lab.

A viewer wanted to know, “Is there an individual test for each variant?” 

“You could design an individual test for the variants, but the reality of it is by the time that they develop we don’t have time to develop that,” Miller said. “The FDA has to review those tests, so by the time we develop it, the FDA reviews it, we are well into the wave of a variant.”

Miller said what’s more important is the tests we do have continue to detect new variants, through genetic sequencing of positive tests. Miller said they are actively sequencing to see if the omicron variant is in the state, but so far they’ve only detected Delta.

Another viewer asked, “Why aren’t employers requiring vaccinated folks to be tested? They can catch and spread the virus just as well.”

Miller said while vaccinated people can still catch COVID-19, they’re less likely to spread it to others. She said stopping the spread is about a combination of masks, testing, and vaccination

“When you take one away, in this scenario when you take vaccination away, it’s really important to continue doing all those mitigation strategies,” Miller said.

A third viewer asked, “Do I really need it, it’s been a year.”

“If you have respiratory symptoms, if you have symptoms that you think might be COVID-19 you should get a test,” Miller said. 

Miller said not just for your own care, but to notify people you came into contact with, especially those who might be more at risk.

She said all tests work well, but PCR tests are more sensitive, and therefore more accurate than rapid antigen ones. She said false negatives are possible with rapid tests. If someone is symptomatic and has been exposed to COVID, but still gets a negative rapid result, Miller recommends taking a PCR test to double-check.

With the holidays and school winter breaks approaching, we asked Miller when’s the best time to take a COVID test if you want one before traveling. She said to take one as close to departure as possible and to take a test about five to seven days after arriving back, allowing enough time for any potential virus to develop.

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