'Covid testing' shoots to the top of Google search trends ahead of Thanksgiving

Doctors warn that testing negative for coronavirus is not a ‘free pass’

Graig Graziosi
Tuesday 24 November 2020 20:55
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Coronavirus in numbers
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Google searches in the US for "Covid testing" have skyrocketed ahead of the Thanksgiving holiday.  

According to data from Google Trends, there has been a surge in searches for "Covid testing" since 16 Nov.  

Google Trend indexes use ratings between 1-100, with 100 representing the maximum search interest. As of Tuesday, "Covid testing" was indexed at 100.  

For context, between 1 to 7 November, "Covid testing" was indexed at 48.  

It’s possible that those hoping to enjoy a Thanksgiving with friends and family are the ones driving the search for testing sites.  

In Raleigh, North Carolina, testing sites have reported "unprecedented" numbers of patients in the week prior to Thanksgiving. 

In Los Angeles, those hoping to get a test waited for four hours or more before they were swabbed. And rich New Yorkers were reportedly paying professional line-waiters to stand in long Covid testing lines for them.  

While those rushing to get tested may think a negative result gives them the go-ahead to attend a large family gathering, health officials warn they should still opt to stay home.  

US Surgeon General Jerome Adams said people should still follow social distancing, mask wearing and hand washing guidelines, even if they test negative.  

“Let’s just be real here. I would rather be around someone who just had a negative Covid test than someone whose status I didn’t know,” Dr Adams said. 

“But a negative test yesterday or Sunday doesn’t mean that you’re safe tomorrow. It doesn’t mean that you can relax your precautions.”

A negative test is not a free pass. It usually takes three days of replication after infection before Covid-19 can be identified in a lab test, though for many people the incubation period can extend for up to 14 days.  

As a result, someone could be infected for days - or even a week - before getting a test and still not have it show up as a positive.  

Testing does not provide permission to ignore health professional's calls for coronavirus mitigating efforts like social distancing and mask usage. In addition to it not serving that purpose, Americans rushing out to get tests ahead of the holidays also puts a strain on medical staff and resources.  

“Testing supply and testing times are really becoming very precious. We would appeal to people that they only get tested if they are sick or have a public health reason to get tested,” Dr Dawn Nolt of the Oregon Health and Science University Doernbecher Children's Hospital, told Oregon Public Broadcasting.  

Dr Lester Baskin, a primary care physician who also spoke with the broadcaster, said he was advising all of his patients - test or not - to stay home this Thanksgiving. He says that quarantining is the only surefire way for a person to ensure they do not infect their loved ones.  

"Unfortunately, some people may approach that as sort of a quarantine-light, you know?" he said. "But quarantine means isolated - in your house, isolated from other people."

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