Infectious disease expert: When NOT to get a COVID-19 test

Written by on December 30, 2021

Infectious disease expert: When NOT to get a COVID-19 test

Brittany Sweeney
December 30, 2021

People wait in line at a COVID-19 testing site in New York’s Times Square on Dec. 13, 2021. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig)

BETHLEHEM, Pa. – Across the Lehigh Valley people are waiting hours in long lines for COVID-19 tests.

Health care professionals say it’s stretching resources to the max. Doctors are now saying you don’t always need to go get swabbed.

Listen to the story.

Testing sites have been set up across the Lehigh Valley by multiple health networks, but Dr. Jeffrey Jahre with St. Luke’s University Health Network is advising people to consider a few things before running out and potentially overwhelming those sites.

He says “if you don’t have symptoms or have very minor symptoms like a runny nose, then it is generally not necessary to go out and get a COVID test unless you work in a very high-risk situation such as a hospital with very high-risk individuals.” 

Jahre, who is St. Luke’s vice president of medical and academic affairs and section chief emeritus of infectious diseases, says people should avoid going to an emergency room or urgent care for a COVID test unless their symptoms are severe.

He also says the St. Luke’s testing sites will swab people first who are either referred by a doctor or if they have severe symptoms – so if you’re not feeling really sick, he says, do not just show up.

Here’s the guidance issued by St. Luke’s in a news release this week:

People who are symptomatic and have tested positive using an at-home test should NOT seek a second, confirmatory laboratory test from the Network. (An at-home test that produces a positive result in a symptomatic individual is considered highly accurate, so a second, laboratory test is not necessary to confirm the diagnosis.)

People who believe they have been exposed to Covid but are not symptomatic should NOT go to a St. Luke’s hospital emergency department or a St. Luke’s Care Now urgent care location for a Covid test to rule out infection.

Additionally, people should NOT go to the hospital emergency department or a St. Luke’s Care Now urgent care location for a Covid test for travel needs.

Said Jahre: “We ask for the public’s thoughtful cooperation to ensure our region’s health care resources are available and accessible in a timely manner to those patients with the greatest need.”

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