As cases of COVID-19 soar in Pennsylvania, focus shifts to testing options

PHILADELPHIA (WPVI) -- Friday marked the second day in a row that Pennsylvania reported more than 5,000 COVID-19 cases.

The surge in cases with the holidays approaching has some Philadelphians and visitors worried about a new shutdown to get cases under control.

"Yeah, I think it's coming soon, because everybody isn't doing what they are supposed to do," said Southwest Philadelphia resident Al Simmons.

"I think if everybody was doing what they should be doing, maybe we wouldn't be headed here," added New York visitor Nancy Todd.

As the cases rise, there is more focus on the different types of testing options.

Around the city Friday, some testing sites were far from bustling but nonetheless seeing patients.

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As far as testing goes, there are three broad categories.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention breaks testing down into two groups: the two tests that tell you if you have an active infection and the antibody test indicating whether you had the virus.

Dr. Patricia Henwood of Jefferson Health, who leads the Emergency Medicine COVID-19 Task Force, says testing results still depend on how sick a person and when they are tested.

"How much we can trust the test results actually depends on that specific patient and that context," she said.



That goes for the nasal, throat, or even salvia based tests that are out there.

However, experts agree that PCR tests, which look for genetic material, and you might recognize as the uncomfortable nasal swab, tend to provide less false positives.

But, doctors stress, a negative test isn't a license to refrain from taking precautions.

"That test is only as good as the moment when the test was done. It doesn't predict the onset of disease. So, even if you had a negative test today, tomorrow you could be tested and be positive," Henwood added.

Access to testing is also better, be it through your medical provider, pharmacies like CVS or cost-free options through the city.

Penn Medicine professor and Chair of the Department of Microbiology Dr. Frederick Bushman says the bottom line is no matter the test, having access and options is key in getting cases under control.

"Let's implement more and more testing to catch outbreaks early, and that way we can suppress the epidemic," Bushman said.

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