Demand rises for COVID-19 tests amid calls for smaller holiday gatherings

COVID rapid testing

TUCSON, Ariz. (KOLD News 13) - Local testing sites say they’ve turned away thousands as the demand for rapid testing before Thankgiving has dramatically increased this holiday season.

“It breaks our hearts, but we’ve had to turn away at least two or three thousand people,” said Wendell Long, Owner of ARCPoint Labs of Tucson.

Long says in the last seven days they have tested well over 1,000 people for COVID-19, but turning people away doesn’t get easier.

“We truly wish we could test everyone,” said Long.

Long says demand is through the roof.

One Sierra Vista woman says she drove for more than an hour to get her rapid test.

“Even though we’re feeling great, I just think it’s a good thing for peace of mind.”

Long says the increase in demand is due to people traveling for the holidays, something the CDC and local infectious disease expert Sean Elliott warn against.

“The real issue is not the travel,” said Elliott. “It’s the ‘what happens’ when you get there.”

They say even if you walk away with a negative result, it doesn’t mean it’s your golden ticket to pack up and hit the road.

“That test result only has to do with that point in time,” said Elliott. “There’s no guarantee that person will not become infected after the fact while traveling.”

Long says ARCPoint’s rapid test has a 99.6% accuracy rating but, there’s still a chance for a false negative.

“The CDC does not have guidance that says that you can test out,” said Long. “Testing doesn’t assure everything.”

Dr. Elliott says hospitals are already strained.

“This is not an infinite resource that we can take advantage of and assume that I’ve got a hospital bed waiting for me if I get sick,” said Elliott. “That’s not true.”

But it’s not too late to change course. He says even if one person who watches this decides to stay home- it matters.

“This entire pandemic started with just a couple of people,” said Elliott. “The small numbers, they add up very quickly.”

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