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Health experts urge COVID-19 testing before Thanksgiving gatherings, travel

This Thanksgiving is different than last year’s - COVID vaccines and testing are more widely available. Health experts say you should take advantage.

CHESAPEAKE, Va. — Thanksgiving is just three days away and health experts are recommending not only the coronavirus vaccine but COVID testing before you travel or gather with others at the Thanksgiving table.

Public Health Emergency Manager at the Chesapeake Health Department, Jerry Tucker, said health officials are preparing for a possible increase in coronavirus cases, so they want everyone to celebrate the holiday safety. 

“Current modeling suggest we could easily see another surge, December, January time frame," Tucker said.

That possible surge is thanks to the holidays and the cooler weather. That combination means a lot more people travel and gather indoors. That, in turn, means more opportunities for the coronavirus to spread.

“We can certainly expect travel and holiday get-togethers to increase, so our overall risk for having another surge increases, as well," Tucker said.

Hampton Roads residents like Ernest Brooks were getting tested before the Thanksgiving holiday, at the region’s mass clinic at Norfolk Military Circle Mall.

"You know the holidays are coming up and people are going to be reaching out," Brooks said. "I just want to be safe before I start interacting with family members here and abroad.”

We already know vaccines are the best way to prevent the spread of COVID, but health experts say testing is also important - especially around the holidays.  

A Facebook post by the Chesapeake Health Department warns: “…Make sure you’re not bringing more than good cheer. Get COVID tested.” 

Tucker says right now, he’s recommending rapid COVID tests if you want results in time for Thanksgiving.

“Doing a traditional lab PCR is an option but you probably won’t get the results back in time," Tucker said. "The best means possible now is doing one of our rapid tests... If they’re coming in today in preparations for the holiday – their best bet is most likely going to be one of the two rapid tests; Because here lately, it’s taking us 2 to 5 days to get the results back from the lab PCR.”  

Tucker said a rapid antigen test can get you results in as little as 15 minutes, a rapid PCR test will get you results in about 30 minutes.  

“Not quite as good in terms of efficacy as compared to the traditional lab PCR but we also do those as well," he explained.

However, Tucker added: if you do have time to wait a few days for the result of a lab PCR test, he recommends you isolate as much as possible until then, so you don’t contract COVID before your planned gathering.  

Tucker said testing is also important after the Thanksgiving holiday if you spent time traveling or gathering with others.