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If you want a COVID-19 test right now, prepare to wait

Getting a test isn't the only thing now taking longer. The results are taking more time to return as well.

ATLANTA — You can go anywhere in the state to any health department, even outside your county to get a COVID-19 test. But whatever county you pick, right now, you'll probably have to wait.

One Buckhead woman found that out this past week. 

"We're supposed to go out of town for the 4th of July and I wanted to be responsible with what I could be infecting others with," said Julia Carpenter.

She woke up last Wednesday with body aches, a headache, and a fever- so she tried to get a test for COVID-19 through her primary care doctor in Fulton County. With a fever, she couldn't go into the office but could get tested at Wellstreet. The first available slot was two days later at 7 p.m.

"I thought it was gonna be a drive-up sort of swab test but it wasn't a COVID test it ended up being for telemedicine," Carpenter said.

So she went through her symptoms again and was told a scheduler would call her to set up the place and time to finally take the test.

"I said I'm really disappointed that I'm going to have to wait for a scheduler to follow up with me," Carpenter said.

Over in Gwinnett County, Amir also wanted to take a test so he could take a trip this week.

After trying to book an appointment online for five hours, he gave up.

"You either get logged off or an error message. Now we are hesitant we don't know if we want to get together," said Amir.

Dr. Audrey Arona is the CEO of the Gwinnett, Newton and Rockdale County health departments and said it's not just getting the test that's taking longer these days- but the results are taking longer too.

"We've had so much increased demand that the turnaround time used to be 24 to 48 hours but now the lab is a bit overwhelmed so it's taking 4 to 5 days," said Arona.

Arona says there are three reasons that more people are getting tested: for peace of mind before trips, in advance of summer camps for their kids

And some are just wanting to know if they have it.

Carpenter finally connected with the scheduler on Monday and set up an appointment for her test this Wednesday - one week after she first tried to take a test. She just hopes it's not too late.

"I feel like at this point it would be negative," said Carpenter.

Dr.  Arona said there is a window when tests are most accurate. If you get tested too soon after exposure, the virus may not show up yet, and if you wait too late, it may not show up anymore. 

That window is 10 days after the initial infection. Having symptoms can be a good indicator that the time is right.


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