Know before you go: Picking the site for the COVID test you need as demand soars before holidays

ORANGE COUNTY, Fla. — There were long lines at the Orange County Convention Center Thursday as people tried to make their family gatherings safer by getting tested for COVID-19.

However, health officials say that’s not a fool-proof strategy as the tests and what they may reveal about a person’s status could vary.

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In Orange County, officials at the convention center had to close off the test site at 3:30 p.m. and as many as 50 cars were turned away after they reached their limit on testing for the day.

Some in the line said they anticipated the long wait.

READ: Orange County health officials in “crisis mode” to keep up with contact tracing

“Last time we were here we waited almost two hours,” one man said.

Due to the high demand, Orange County is adding testing on the weekends, but all the different sites offer different kinds of tests, and it’s important to pick a test site based on the test that’s needed.

For example, antibody tests are best about four weeks after exposure to the virus, or two three weeks after symptoms first emerge.

On the other hand, the  polymerise chain reaction, or PCR test, has a better chance of detecting the virus even before a person is experiencing any symptoms.

Epidemiologist Alvina Chu says the PCR is considered the gold standard in testing, but it doesn’t mean the other is unreliable.

READ: Orange County health officials in “crisis mode” to keep up with contact tracing

Regardless of the test a person gets, doctors  say isolation between receiving results and attending gatherings with loved ones is key.

A list of test sites in Orange County can be found here.