Holiday rush for COVID-19 testing as state urges North Carolinians to stay home for holidays

RALEIGH (WTVD) -- It was busy most of the day, Friday, at Wake County Health Department's Swinburne COVID-19 testing site with a heavy stream of people driving up for testing ahead of potential holiday travel or gatherings. No one seemed to be having a hard time finding a site to get tested. But, it's the travel and gatherings part that state health officials are having a hard time condoning.

"I'll probably just go back home. If I don't have any symptoms I don't know if I'll get tested again. But I definitely don't want to bring anything back to my family," said Thomas Webb in downtown Raleigh, one of several passers-by who spoke to ABC11 about the holiday rush for coronavirus testing.

Kristen McCollum told us, "most likely I will stay here but I do have a COVID test scheduled for tomorrow morning."

"I'm going home to Wilson and probably going to get a COVID test," Terrance Hinnant added.


Alyssa Gennis lives off-campus from UNC in Chapel Hill. "They've had testing available for us. I got tested before I went back to my family for Thanksgiving and I'll probably get tested before I go back for Christmas," she said."

At Advance Community Health in southeast Raleigh, the team is staging free drive-thru COVID testing sites across Wake County almost daily through the pandemic. And the traffic has been decidedly heavier in the holiday season. Advance typically tests 150 people per day at its site. Friday, outside Southeast Raleigh Magnet High School, it was more than double: 325 people.

"It's a big number for us, a very big number," said Advance Community Health Spokesperson Kelly Wright. "I think it's because the holidays are coming up and people are getting smarter about being safe around family and friends, if they choose to do that. And, they want that negative test result."

But, while the number of people getting tested is rising for the holidays, so are the warnings about increased vigilance to stop the spread of the virus.

"They should limit their contacts as much as possible ahead of a planned gathering to reduce the chance of exposure. And, also to allow time for the tests results to process. Because with increased demand for testing, you need to give it time to get results back," Wright said.

The official holiday line from state health officials and the CDC: Yes, get tested. But, please don't travel.

"I'd caution everyone, if you can change your (holiday travel) plans, do," said NC Heath and Humans Services Secretary Dr. Mandy Cohen.

Dr. Cohen urging North Carolinians to keep holiday gatherings limited to the people you live with; Otherwise, keep them outdoors and socially-distanced.

CLICK HERE for Wake County COVID-19 testing sites. CLICK HERE for the Test Site Finder from NCDHHS.
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