MEMPHIS, Tenn. — As millions of Americans scramble to navigate the holidays amid rising coronavirus cases and the rapid spread of the omicron variant, convenient testing options that can quickly detect an infection are becoming harder to find.
Shelby County health leaders said more people are going to emergency rooms to get tested for COVID-19, but, that's not a good idea.
Instead, Manoj Jain, an infectious disease specialist on the Shelby County COVID-19 Task Force, said people need to stay at home because the ER is only seeing COVID patients with severe symptoms.
The Shelby County Health Department said getting tested at the ER is not an option.
"Just use common sense, think about this, if you got a fever, or a cough, or a runny nose, and someone you know, a family member, had COVID a day or two earlier, it's very likely they passed on the covid-19 infection to you," Jain said.
Despite an uptick in COVID-19 cases, Jain said Shelby County hospitals are seeing fewer patients with severe symptoms from the omicron variant. He said part of the reason is that more people are vaccinated, reducing the severity of the illness.
But for people who decided to gather with family for the holiday and were possibly exposed to the omicron variant, Jain said mild symptoms like running nose, cough, sore throat, and a fever will begin between two to five days after exposure.
If you're not vaccinated, Jain said it is likely symptoms will worsen seven to 10 days after exposure.
"Don't get overly concerned and worried if you are unable to get a test right away," he said. "There's no need for us to cause complications of infection and spread it to others."
The best way to slow the spread of the virus is to wear a mask, social distance, quarantine if you are feeling sick, and get fully vaccinated.
All mass testing sites in Shelby County are closed until Monday.
If someone in your home has tested positive recently for COVID-19, assume that everyone in it is positive and should isolate for 10 days.