CHICAGO (CBS) — With just days left until Thanksgiving, the rush is on at COVID-19 testing sites across Illinois.
CBS 2’s Marissa Parra takes us to a testing site on Chicago’s Northwest Side, where lines were long, but many say it was worth the wait.
Within the last 24 hours, well over 120,000 Illinois residents were tested for COVID-19, a single-day testing record for the state
But with all those tests, health experts are worried that people who get negative test results will be lulled into a false sense of security ahead of time with family for Thanksgiving.
There was a time when you might have seen a line like this at some sort of premiere, but this is the line for a COVID test, a far less glamorous reality, with just days left until Thanksgiving, a day typically spent travelling to a household packed with people.
We spoke to people in line at the Dunning drive-through COVID testing site; from a distance, over the phone, while they stayed in their car.
“I’ve been waiting 3 and a half hours,” Sarah Trulley said.
That’s only how long she and others with her in line had been there when we talked to them. It would be another two hours before they actually got their test.
The question is, are the 5 hours in line worth the wait? It depends on what you’re there for.
“Testing is important to figure out how many people have the illness, but a negative test isn’t a guarantee you can do whatever you want,” said Dr. John Segreti, an epidemiologist at Rush University Medical Center.
Segreti said seeing lines of people waiting to get tested doesn’t bring him any kind of relief ahead of the holiday.
There are people in line because they either had an exposure or have COVID symptoms, but he also knows a lot of people are here because of Thanksgiving plans.
“Yeah we want to be surrounded by family and making sure we’re all safe,” said Leslie Alvizures.
“Initially, that was the thought, but with the new CDC guidelines, we are seriously considering not going, and having Thanksgiving between the two of us,” Julia Jordan-Lake said.
Segreti applauded the good intentions of those getting tested this weekend, but cautioned people against letting their guard down with a negative test. You could take the test today, and then get the virus tomorrow, and become infectious by Thursday.
There’s also the possibility you already have the virus, but it hasn’t started shedding yet, so you test negative in the morning and become infectious later on, even in the same day
“People do have to realize that a negative test isn’t a get out of jail free card,” Segreti said.
The massive lines for tests also mean fewer tests for those who really need them
“To get tested just so you can visit your family uses up resources for people who do have symptoms,” Segreti said.
In all, the state has processed more than 9.7 million tests during the pandemic. Illinois could push over the 10 million threshold within a matter of days.
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