HOUSTON — Between rising hospitalizations because of COVID-19 and the Thanksgiving holiday, which is less than a week away, there’s a national push for people to get tested for COVID-19. In fact, Harris County texted residents earlier this week. Judge Lina Hidalgo is asking residents to cancel gatherings and to go get tested.
More than 6,000 Nextdoor users across the greater Houston area voted in the unscientific social media poll. A majority of neighbors voted: No, they have not gotten tested for COVID.
Dr. Sherri Onyiego with Harris County Public Health is hoping to change your mind.
“One of the reasons why we want to push testing is because we are seeing an increase in cases in our community,” Onyiego said. “The holidays present an opportunity for people to potentially let their guards down. Testing is also one of those things that we have to continue to educate the community about.”
On Nextdoor, Michelle M. wrote: "I don't know anyone who has COVID, who knows anyone has been exposed to someone with COVID, and have no symptoms. Why go to the expense, discomfort, or aggravation to take a test I really don't trust in the first place."
“About 40% of individuals won’t have symptoms and they’re actually COVID positive,” Onyiego said. “And so that’s why it’s important that whether you have symptoms or not that you should still get tested.”
In the last eight months of the global pandemic, science has evolved. The testing shortages we saw early on aren’t happening now in the Houston area. Onyiego says testing has changed. There are now nasal and oral swab tests. Results now take a matter of days to receive instead of weeks. And with the help of government funding, free test sites are all across Texas.
“There may be a moment of discomfort. There may be even a moment of anxiety when someone is taking a test, right? But it certainly is one of the best tools that we have right now,” she said.
The doctor reminds us that testing is a snapshot in time.
“A one-time test does not give you immunity from here on out. I think it’s important for people to know that we don’t restrict the number of times that people can get tested,” she said.
You can get tested every single day at a free site. That data helps health departments prepare for what could happen next. And to our neighbors who wonder if non-symptomatic people are wasting tests, “The resources that we have are here. They’re allocated for us. And so we certainly want to encourage the public to utilize those resources. We know that there’s COVID fatigue. Right? But we have to, we can’t let loose. We have to continue doing our individual part.”