Guidance about covid tests and holiday travel

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November 23, 2020

Happy Holidays to all of you.  Last week, we shared some news related to the vaccine developments.  Today we’d like to share guidance about holiday travel.

Unfortunately, we still find ourselves in the midst of the pandemic. Holidays can be stressful and also isolating for many, and this is especially more acute this year. 

The safest way to celebrate Holidays this year per CDC is staying home. However, many will be traveling or gathering with relatives who are in town. Many people are getting a COVID test before meeting family, especially since they will be around older and sometimes more vulnerable members.

Availability of testing for COVID 19 is getting better, and in the US, there are over 1.6 million tests done per day. However, we are not yet at a point where we have enough tests for everyone in the country. We are seeing the lines for testing getting longer; the wait time for results is also longer than ideal. Many of my patients have questions about the various types of tests, and I hope this document provides the required information. 

There are a variety of tests available and some new tests coming to the market soon.  I have listed the most common ones below:

  1. The PCR test done in a laboratory is the most accurate. This can take anywhere from a few hours to 5 days to get the results.  Suburban and Sibley hospitals are currently providing this test with a physician’s prescription.
  1. LabCorp Labs has a direct to consumer PCR COVID test, that can be accessed directly from the company website. The results will be available in in 3-5 days.
  1. A few local urgent cares offer ID NOW, another PCR based test. The results are available at the time of the visit or the same day. These tests are run at the urgent care itself and not sent to the lab.
  1. Other urgent cares offer an antigen test, the test results are available on the same day. Although the antigen test is convenient, it is not as accurate and can miss up to 40% of cases. 
  1. A new test that can be performed at home has gotten Emergency Use Approval from the FDA.   Lucira COVID -19 test requires a doctor’s prescription. The swabs and testing device and detailed instructions for swabbing the inside of your nose are included. The results of this test will be available in 30 minutes or less. Maryland, DC and Virginia are expected to get this test in the next weeks.

Please note NO TEST IS 100% guaranteed. Additionally, the test only gives you results at the time you are tested. It is important to wear masks and possibly even shields whenever you are in public places, both indoors and outdoors. Maintaining social distancing (6 feet), washing hands and other common-sense measures cannot be overemphasized during this holiday season.

Please stay safe and celebrate smart. Remember that indoor congregations, family gatherings, and other places where people feel more familiar and let their guards down are high risk environments for transmission of the virus. In small house gatherings especially indoors, people feel more comfortable and take their masks off, leading to risks. Remember about 40% or more people are asymptomatic. This means that they themselves do not know they have the infection and may spread it to others. I have attached the link to CDC’s page

The above information is based on recent guidelines published by Maryland department of health and Dr. Fauci’s grand rounds at Johns Hopkins Hospitals.

Please call the office in case any of you still need a flu shot

My staff and I would like to wish you a peaceful and healthy Holiday Season.