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Want a COVID test before your Thanksgiving rally? You can end up waiting, again


COVID testing is still part of the overall approach to tracking and preventing viruses, officials say. But those traveling or getting together with family this holiday season can expect it to be more difficult to get swabbed.



Sam Donohaue, 5, a kindergarten student at RP Connor Elementary School in Suffern, takes a COVID-19 test at a testing site in the parking lot of the Palisades Center shopping mall on November 30, 2020. The Department of Health of the Rockland County and the Good Samaritan Hospital has set up the testing site for the yellow zone school districts.  Neighborhoods in the yellow zone must test 20% of their population to stay open.  Along with Sam was his brother Jack, 9, who was also tested.


© Seth Harrison / The Journal News
Sam Donohaue, 5, a kindergarten student at RP Connor Elementary School in Suffern, takes a COVID-19 test at a testing site in the parking lot of the Palisades Center shopping mall on November 30, 2020. The Department of Health of the Rockland County and the Good Samaritan Hospital has set up the testing site for the yellow zone school districts. Neighborhoods in the yellow zone must test 20% of their population to stay open. Along with Sam was his 9-year-old brother Jack, who was also tested.

State-run test sites statewide have upped the ante, and outside of New York City, where test tents dot many street corners, it’s hard to find a managed site. by the municipality.

Medical providers, including walk-in clinics, as well as pharmacies offer many tests – CVS reports make the tests available at more than 4,800 pharmacies across the country.

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These providers, however, expect a slight hike during the holidays. Remember the long lines outside your local walk-in clinic?



a person sitting on a blue surface: A nasal swab is prepared for test results at a COVID-19 test site in the parking lot of the Palisades Center shopping mall on November 30, 2020. The Rockland County Health Department and the Good Samaritan hospital have set up the testing site for the yellow zone school districts.  Neighborhoods in the yellow zone must test 20% of their population to stay open.


© Seth Harrison / The Journal News
A nasal swab is prepared for test results at a COVID-19 testing site in the parking lot of the Palisades Center shopping mall on November 30, 2020. The Rockland County Health Department and Good Samaritan Hospital have implemented the test site for school districts in the yellow zone. Neighborhoods in the yellow zone must test 20% of their population to stay open.

Officials at WMC Health, with hospitals and facilities across the Hudson Valley, recalled last year’s increase in demand for COVID-19 testing before the holidays. They are recruiting and supplying more people looking for tests.

There are also home test kits available on drug store shelves – although quantity limits and shortages are considered as the holidays approach.

Tallman’s Pharmacy Center has a limited stock of over-the-counter Covid-19 rapid home test kits, pharmacist Gary Langstein said. “They were hard to find,” he added.

“I would expect there to be an increase in demand for these kits as we get closer to the holidays due to families wanting to reunite safely,” Langstein said.

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has said antigen testing is not as accurate as swab PCR testing.

‘A little tricky’

The tests are neither a complete predictor nor a protector against infection, said Dr Donald Chen, hospital epidemiologist at Westchester Medical Center and MidHudson Regional Hospital in Poughkeepsie.

“If your test is negative, it doesn’t mean there is no risk,” Chen said. “You could be exposed and not test positive right away.”

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Testing should also be done as early as possible before travel, Chen said, but with enough time to recover from the test.

Leaving before a test result returns and then turns out to be positive means someone is stranded in quarantine at their vacation destination.

“It’s a bit tricky,” Chen said.

Vaccination is the best line of defense, said Westchester County Commissioner Dr. Sherlita Amler.

Chen agreed. He also recommends wearing masks if you’re indoors and with people at high risk.



Faithful Sandra Weinstein is swabbed to confirm a negative COVID-19 test outside Young Israel in New Rochelle on March 31, 2020. Young members of Israel, who are now no longer showing symptoms after testing positive for the coronavirus, have started donating blood at the synagogue to see if they have enough antibodies to fight COVID-19.


© Tania Savayan / The News Journal
Faithful Sandra Weinstein is swabbed to confirm a negative COVID-19 test outside Young Israel in New Rochelle on March 31, 2020. Young members of Israel, who are now no longer showing symptoms after testing positive for the coronavirus, have started donating blood at the synagogue to see if they have enough antibodies to fight COVID-19.

Big changes compared to last year

The CDC continues to recommend that people who are not fully vaccinated get tested before and after air travel.

New York State’s COVID testing warrants for domestic travel ended on April 1.

Just before Thanksgiving last year, New York City relaxed its travel rules and allowed people to ‘test’ a full 14-day quarantine by going through COVID tests before coming here, quarantining three days, then passing another COVID test on this fourth day.

But last year, vacationers relied on COVID testing because there wasn’t much else.

Now, Chen said, people can be fully immunized – reducing their likelihood of contracting and transmitting the virus – and many are now receiving boosters.

On November 15, Governor Kathy Hochul expanded eligibility for recalls in New York to include anyone who may “feel at risk” because of their job or community transmission. The CDC was ready to follow suit.

But vaccinations are neither universal nor foolproof. Groundbreaking cases of COVID can occur in fully vaccinated people, including people with weakened immune systems, according to the CDC.

Cold weather, a more virulent delta variant, and holes in vaccination rates have all contributed to the increase in COVID cases as the holiday season approaches. Plus, kids ages 5 to 11 only had time for a single dose of Pfizer vaccination before Thanksgiving gatherings.

Between the first and second week of November, COVID positivity rates in the state jumped 25%; the statewide positivity rate – the share of COVID tests that tested positive for the virus – was 3.2% statewide and exceeded 8% in western New York and the Finger Lakes.

Who should test and how?

While the New Jersey Department of Health has sent a notice to schools that they should still consider testing and quarantines for any unvaccinated student or staff who travel on vacation, the New York Department of Health did not disclose any of those plans or comment on the possibility.

Employers, however, can impose COVID testing after personal travel, said Jay Starkman, CEO of Engage PEO. which provides human resources services to companies.

Starkman said he anticipates some companies will do just that during the winter holidays, when international travel is more common than during the all-American Thanksgiving holiday. Even though the United States requires testing for the return of international travelers, Starkman said an employer may require a second round.

More likely, Starkman said, companies will be making their employees work from home after the trip. He added: “So many people are telecommuting anyway.”

This article originally appeared on Rockland / Westchester Journal News: Want a COVID test before your Thanksgiving rally? You can end up waiting, again

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