INDIANAPOLIS – High demand and short supplies of COVID-19 tests are presenting challenges for Hoosiers who are hoping to be tested for the virus in the first week of 2022.
“The only places that I could find appointments reasonably were the end of this week, potentially into next week,” said Hamilton County Health Department spokesperson Christian Walker.
“Unless it was a site that did offer walk-in service.”
For those hoping to find a test quickly, Walker says the Indiana State Department of Health’s Covid-19 website is still the best way to locate the roughly 600 testing sites around Indiana. Testing sites are displayed on a statewide map and divided into categories like “Healthcare Provider or Retail Site,” “IDOH/Gravite Test Site,” and “Free Community Test Site.” Indicators on the map also show whether rapid antigen tests are available.
Testing locations shown on the map also state whether walk-in or drive-thru service is available, or if an appointment is required. Walker says that feature is useful for those who are in a hurry to get tested. However, he suggests calling ahead to a testing site before making the trip.
“Always, when in doubt, it’s best to call that site before you make that effort to venture out there and try and get in line and potently get turned away at that point,” Walker said. “Best thing you can do if you are heading out there is to preregister through the state’s website. That way you have the majority of the administrative portion knocked out before you get there.”
Regenstrief Institute Vice President Dr. Shaun Grannis agrees that calling ahead to a testing site is a good idea.
“Speak with individuals at the sites and ask them do you have a slower time, do you have a time when I’m more likely to have a lower wait,” he said.
Grannis also suggests calling your doctor for help.
“Partnering with your family physician, your personal healthcare provider, working with them to identify sites is useful,” he said.
Recently, Grannis had his own experience trying to find a test for a family member who was showing symptoms of the virus.
“We had to just go and drive around to different pharmacies, CVS, Walgreens, to find a location that actually had those rapid antigen tests,” Grannis recalled.
With tests in such short supply, those who don’t have symptoms should be prepared to receive a PCR test, which can take a couple days for results, Walker said.
“Antigen tests, which is the rapid 15-minute test, are in extremely limited supply right now and are very hard to find and are typically only reserved for those what are symptomatic at this point.”
People without symptoms or known exposure should also wait to get a test until supplies become more adequate, Walker said.
“Because if we’re doing it just for informational purposes, we’re also contributing to that backlog and filling up those appointments as well,” he said.
Grannis adds that those who are able to find at-home tests should buy the minimum number required.
“Often, the pharmacies will restrict the number of tests that you can have to a small reasonable number,” Grannis said.
Both Walker and Grannis also recommend that those who don’t have symptoms or a known exposure wait until supplies are in more adequate supply to be tested. Testing out of simple curiosity is not recommended.
“Because if we’re doing it just for informational purposes, we’re also contributing to that backlog and filling up those appointments as well,” Walker said.
If you do test positive and follow the CDC guidelines for isolation, Walker says there should be no need to be tested again if you are symptom-free at the end of your five-day isolation period. CDC guidelines do not call for that, he said.
“I understand some employers and schools and things like that expect a negative test,” Walker said. “That’s going to be something that’s going to be up to that workplace, school and that person.”