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State leaders urge precautionary COVID-19 tests ahead of Thanksgiving

Kintegra Health is one of a few healthcare providers that is offering COVID-19 tests to people, regardless of symptoms.

GASTONIA, N.C. — Despite state leaders recommending families get precautionary COVID-19 tests if they plan to gather with extended family members on Thanksgiving, many local healthcare providers still limit who can get a COVID-19 test.

Kintegra Health, a community healthcare provider in Gaston County, said it currently has enough tests to offer to anyone, regardless of COVID-19 symptoms.

Donyel Barber, Kintegra's community-centered health director, said they've given thousands of COVID-19 tests at their drive-through mobile testing sites since the spring.

"It has been a roller coaster ride," Barber said. "But, we're thankful that at this point in time, we are able to provide testing for whoever likes to be tested."

According to Atrium Health, patients can only get a test if you have COVID-19 symptoms, were part of a large crowd, or have an upcoming surgery.

RELATED: NC health officials give COVID-19 guidance on Thanksgiving gatherings

Novant Health said it has some capacity to test asymptomatic patients, but people should first speak to their primary care provider before calling a screening center to arrange a test.

But even getting a precautionary COVID-19 test doesn't necessarily mean someone is safe.

UNC Charlotte Associate Professor and Associate Chair of Public Health Science Michael Thompson said a COVID-19 test could only give a snapshot of someone's condition the day they got tested.

"But even testing, before and after, doesn't tell you something because someone can be in that window between being infected and testing positive, and they could unknowingly be transmitting the virus," Prof. Thompson said.

Novant Health Medical Group's Chief Nursing Officer Nikki Nissen said they currently have the capacity to test asymptomatic people who may be traveling, but she cautioned their testing capacity may change depending on case numbers.

She added a negative COVID-19 test doesn't give someone a green light to travel.

"The best defense is quarantining for 14 days before you visit family," Nissen said. "That's really the only way you'll know that you're not bringing the disease to them. However, in lieu of that, certainly the 3 W's, wear, wash and wait."

DHHS Secretary Dr. Mandy Cohen urged families not to gather in large groups for Thanksgiving.

She added anyone who holds a Thanksgiving dinner should separate tables and have everyone wear a mask except when eating or drinking.

"It's not how well you know someone when it comes to wearing a mask," Dr. Cohen said. "If they don't live with you, get behind the mask."

Information on Kintegra Health's mobile testing schedule can be found here.

RELATED: US hits 100,000 daily COVID-19 cases, as Fauci predicted