GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — COVID-19 numbers continue to rise throughout the state of Michigan, and we're less than two weeks away until many families will gather together for the holidays.
Health officials are suggesting testing for the virus could be a saving grace when it comes to preventing the spread.
The Center for COVID Control popping up test sites all over the United States with quite a few in West Michigan.
The sites offer free rapid tests as well as PCR tests.
"We’re seeing a lot of influx with people coming in to get tested due the holiday," said a Center for COVID Control Test Administrator Austin Clark. "Everybody is getting around their families, going shopping and they need to be tested. They want to make sure they’re not going around contaminating the community."
Whether you get a drive-thru test or an at-home test, many West Michiganders are taking the initiative to get swabbed for COVID ahead of the holidays.
"I think testing can be can be very valuable in certain situations," said Bronson Healthcare's Director of Infection Prevention and Epidemiology Dr. Richard Van Enk.
Dr. Van Enk said there are three situations where a person might want to get tested.
"Most of these at-home tests, you buy them in sets of two, there's two in a box, and actually that's very good. Most of these antigen tests or rapid tests or at-home tests are not as sensitive as the type we do in the hospital, but if you do two of them, that increases the sensitivity," said Dr. Van Enk.
If you don't want to administer your own test at home, the Center for COVID Control offers free rapid and PCR tests.
"When you get here, you’re going to stay in your car. We will hand you one of these cards. You can scan the QR code or fill in the URL on an internet browser on your phone. You will fill out a questionnaire with some information asking about your symptoms, then when you get done with this card, we will come and test you. You’ll get your results in an email," said Clark.
The rapid tests come back within 15 minutes whereas the PCR tests take up to 48 to 72 hours.
The test is self-administered with guidance from health professionals. No appointment is necessary, and it's completely free.
"This process is federally granted. Our company is backed with federal grant dollars to provide this service to the community. It is all paid for. If you don’t have insurance information, we do have a no-insurance option. It is no-pay, no co-pay," said Clark.
In addition to getting tested, Dr. Van Enk said it's important to lay out your risk factors while also following guidance from over the last two years like washing hands, social distancing when necessary and wearing masks.
"You have to control your exposure while you're testing yourself. Don't keep exposing yourself while you're doing this testing, then the testing doesn't mean anything, but if you're safe, and you get tested in those three situations, then the testing means quite, quite a bit, and you can be quite assured that you're not going to bring COVID to your holiday gatherings," said Dr. Van Enk.
Dr. Van Enk also wanted to remind people who purchase an at-home test kit to follow the instructions to get the most accurate result.
He said the best form of protection against serious illness from the virus is the vaccine, and additionally the booster.
The Center for COVID Control is located at 2055 28th Street SE, Grand Rapids, MI. For hours and other locations near you, click here.