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COVID-19 test before traveling doesn't guarantee safety

We hope to visit friends in a few weeks, and they have asked us to COVID test before we come. Are enough tests available now that criteria such as ours would allow testing? If so, how do we go about getting it? And how long does it take to get results? I assume we would be quarantining after the test to make sure we don’t contract the virus in between testing and results.

— Leslie

Most testing locations in Jackson County require a health care provider’s referral before you can get a COVID-19 test.

You usually need to have symptoms, or if you are asymptomatic, to have been exposed to someone with COVID-19 or be in a vulnerable population, according to current state guidance about testing.

Local organizations that provide testing include Providence, Asante, La Clinica and Valley Immediate Care.

Last week, Rite Aid announced it’s offering drive-through self-swab testing for all adults, regardless of symptoms. People must show government-issued identification and preregister online at www.riteaid.com to schedule a testing time slot. Rite Aids offering testing in Southern Oregon include stores in Phoenix, Klamath Falls and Roseburg.

The tests are not for people who may need medical care because of symptoms like severe cough, severe shortness of breath or severe fever, Rite Aid says.

Due to the current volume of test processing, test results may take longer than the expected 2-7 days, according to Rite Aid.

State and local public health officials say there is a nationwide shortage of different types of supplies needed along the testing chain. The shortage is affecting a broad range of test sites and laboratories.

Some local patients are seeing their test results come back in 4-5 days, while others are waiting 7-10 days, said Dr. Shames, Jackson County medical director.

Shames said there are dangers in getting a COVID-19 test if you have no symptoms.

“It’s pretty problematic. It can be worse than no testing because it can give a false sense of security,” he said. “It shows a window in time where you had enough virus to trip the test positive. It doesn’t say if you’re incubating the virus. We also get false negatives a significant amount of the time. And it doesn’t mean you can’t get the disease tomorrow.”

If you do take a trip, follow safety precautions while traveling like waiting for crowded public restrooms to clear out before entering, wearing a mask and washing your hands, Shames advised.

Also consider the safety of your destination. Southern Oregon has a relatively low number of COVID-19 cases compared to hot spots like Arizona. If you go to an area with a high infection rate, you could get infected and bring the virus back to Southern Oregon, Shames said.

Send questions to “Since You Asked,” Mail Tribune Newsroom, P.O. Box 1108, Medford, OR 97501; by fax to 541-776-4376; or by email to youasked@rosebudmedia.com. We’re sorry, but the volume of questions received prevents us from answering all of them.