Getting the right COVID-19 test

Published: Nov. 18, 2020 at 5:22 PM CST
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EAU CLAIRE, Wis. (WEAU) - Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, there has been an emphasis on the importance of testing.

“It is really important to remember that testing is a really important strategy to slow the spread,” says Audrey Boerner with the Eau Claire City-County Health Department.

Chances are, if you have gotten a COVID-19 test, the time it took to get results felt like forever.

“It can be anywhere from 36 hours up to 5 days depending on the test,” says Prevea Health Chief Medical Officer and HSHS Sacred Heart Hospital ER physician Ken Johnson.

It’s based on which test you got.

“You can either get a PCR test or you can go to the antigen testing site if you don’t have symptoms,” Boerner says.

Boerner says the more accurate PCR test takes longer to process.

“Most of the tests being done in the county are those PCR tests,” she says. “Those are the gold standard for tests that we’ve been doing all along.”

PCR tests are recommended for people who have symptoms or have had an exposure to the virus.

Antigen testing is a quicker option with results usually available in under 40 minutes.

Johnson says Prevea Health only offers PCR tests and their labs are done out of state which takes a little longer.

“We do the samples and then send it to the lab, once it gets to the lab, it’s a 48 to 72 hour turnaround,” he says.

Mayo Clinic in Eau Claire processes their labs locally, which allows them to get results faster.

Boerner says if you think you have been exposed and are not showing symptoms, to self isolate for a few days before getting tested.

“We suggest waiting five to eight days after that exposure to get that test, it is possible to get tested too early.”

Of course, there are those recommended actions to avoid getting tested all together.

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