RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) – As Thanksgiving approaches, health experts are encouraging people to get tested for COVID-19 if they plan on spending the holiday with friends and family.
Labs, hospitals and health departments all expect to see a surge in testing over the next few days, but turnaround times for test results vary.
“Any interaction with family is a risk of spread of the virus and you should err on the side of caution,” said Schquthia Peacock, a family nurse practitioner at Preston Medical Associates in Cary.
Turnaround times depend on the lab processing the tests.
Peacock said her office is returning results in two days through Quest Diagnostics.
A spokesperson for Quest Diagnostics says their current turnaround-time is slightly more than two days.
They said the wave of COVID-19 cases across the country is beginning to affect their COVID-19 molecular diagnostic testing.
The lab reports orders for molecular testing has increased by approximately 50 percent compared to the last week of September.
Both MAKO Medical and LabCorp report a turnaround-time of 24 to 48 hours.
“While we do expect to see an increase in the need for testing due to the upcoming Thanksgiving holiday, our team has already increased staffing and capacity in anticipation of the rise in demand during the holiday and flu seasons,” said MAKO Medical Chief Operating Officer Josh Arant in a statement.
Wake County’s free drive-thru COVID-19 tests offers some of the fastest return times.
According to a spokesperson, the Radeas Labs testing site in Wake Forest is returning results in 24-48 hours.
However, most people tested there receive their result anywhere between 12-24 hours.
Tests taken at the Sunnybrook Parking Deck-Holston Lane in Raleigh are also being returned in 24-48 hours. However, most people receive results within 24 hours, according to a spokesperson.
A spokesperson said there are a number of reasons for the different turnaround-times.
Radeas is a full-service lab that processes COVID-19 testing on-site, whereas Sunnybrook uses LabCorp and tests are transported by courier.
According to a spokesperson, while they do not anticipate a slowdown, they do expect an influx of testing prior to and following Thanksgiving.
Therefore, turnaround-times could slow down because of increased demand on labs.
The CVS MinuteClinic is returning results is 3-4 days, but could take longer due to the current surge in COVID-19 cases and increased testing, according to a spokesperson.
Turnaround-times at UNC Health vary by location.
According to a spokesperson, test results for the free, mobile COVID testing events held by UNC Health are returned in 24-48 hours.
Turnaround-times for tests done at UNC’s Respiratory Diagnostic Center in Chapel Hill is typically less than 24 hours, according to a spokesperson.
Urgent care clinics like FastMed and NextCare both report results in 48-72 hours.
While both clinics offer rapid testing, Peacock said that is not the best option for someone without symptoms as it can provide a false negative.
She recommends testing with a nasal swab administered by a health care professional for best results.
“It’s not a 100 percent accuracy when it comes to the test,” she said.
That’s why health experts say even with a COVID-19 negative test result, people should wear masks, sit outside six feet apart, and frequently wash their hands if they are spending the day with extended family.
Peacock said it’s important to quarantine immediately after taking a test, up until getting together for with friends or family for Thanksgiving to limit any possible exposure to the virus.
“Once you have your test, you want to make sure you’re extra cautious because anything can happen between, if you have your test Monday. Monday and Thursday of Thanksgiving,” she said.
Peacock said the safest option is not to gather with anyone outside of the same household. She said her family is picking up dinner, and eating at their respective houses.
“What I’ve chosen to do is not to gather at this time, so we can keep our family members around for 2021 Thanksgiving,” she said.