Doctors warn negative COVID-19 test isn’t a free pass for Thanksgiving holiday


NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) – Experts have discouraged traveling and gathering in groups for the thanksgiving holiday, but many have resorted to rapid testing hoping to get negative results so they can still enjoy time with family.

At Complete Urgent Care in West Nashville, appointments have been booked for weeks.

“We’re closer to about 300 patients a day right now, and we’ve truly had to limit it to appointments only and that’s the only way we’re able to keep up,” said Owner Ty Babcock.

With 300 appointments a day, Complete Urgent Care had to open a separate drive-thru testing clinic down the street with a generator and porta potty for staff.

This week, the phones are ringing off the hook and many are asking for rapid testing – a molecular test done in 30 minutes for about $200 to $250 dollars.

“We definitely have seen an increase in the number of calls of people trying to get home for Thanksgiving,” Babcock said.

While the urgent care is doing everything they can to test everyone, Babcock said a negative rapid test isn’t a “pass go” for Thanksgiving travel plans.

“In general, most rapid tests are going to be less sensative and slightly less accurate than most test you’d send off to the lab, it’s not a big difference but you have a trade off of speed vs. accuracy,” he explained.

Even if you got an antigen test in the form of a nose swab and received negative results, there are too many unknown variables between then and the moment you sit down at the table.

“It is a snap shot in time of that moment when they do that test. ‘Does it turn positive or not?’ Even then we know the test is not perfectly accurate, but let’s say you do get an accurate test and you are negative and you’re not contagious, that doesn’t say anything about where you might be in 24 to 48 hours,” Babcock explained.

Negative or not, he urges people that are going to gather for Thanksgiving to continue to wear a mask and try to stay 6 feet apart.

He advises people to also check travel restrictions for their destination, as some states still require negative test results to travel.

If you start to develop symptoms during the holiday or feel you have been exposed, quarantine yourself from others until you can get tested.

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