What type of COVID-19 test should you get, and when? Doctors weigh in

CHICAGO (WLS) -- No matter where you get tested for coronavirus across the Chicago area, there are long lines.

"Ten other people had the same appointment time," said Christian Searles, who took a COVID-19 test after being exposed to someone who tested positive. "I'm like, wow, a lot of people getting tested, kinda of crazy what's going on, but the new norm."

Whether it's exposure, symptoms or taking a test as a precaution, testing is at an all-time high at Innovative Express Care's three testing sites.

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"Of those who have been exposed or who have symptoms, 17-18% are coming back positive at Innovative, which is a huge amount," said Dr. Rahul Khare, CEO at Innovative Express Care.

Dr. Rahul Khare said the positivity rate was around 4-6% in the spring.

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Innovative Express Care interviews everyone who tests at its sites. Dr. Khare said 95 percent say they were exposed to COVID at in indoor home gathering.

For patients with exposure or symptoms, Innovative gives a rapid test, as well as the most reliable PCR test. Because the rapid test is only 85 percent reliable, Dr. Khare said it's important to isolate while waiting for the lab PCR test.

"If they are positive on the rapid, we know they are positive," Dr. Khare said. "If they are negative on the rapid, they really wait. They have to be in isolation and they have to be careful and act like they have it."

Right now, PCR test results take about 2-3 days at Innovative, and possibly longer at other facilities.

There is also the question about the timing of a test: if you have symptoms, test right away.

But if you've just been exposed, doctors say you should not get tested immediately.

"If there is a known risk exposure, probably day 5-7 is the right time," said Dr. Irfan Hafiz, an infectious disease specialist at Northwestern Medicine.

If you're traveling for the holidays or returning home from college and test as a precaution only, doctors say quarantining is safer than a negative test, which could give you a false sense of security.
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