Chatham Co. health officials say negative COVID-19 test is not clearance to travel


SAVANNAH, Ga. (WSAV) – Demand for COVID-19 testing could increase as people return home from their Thanksgiving holiday and others get ready to travel for Christmas.

Currently, the Coastal Health District requires that you make an appointment at their testing sites, but that could soon change. At their peak, they tested more than 6,000 people in just one week for COVID-19.

“We are trying appointments to be able to manage the volume with our staffing, but we can easily pivot back to no appointments if it becomes necessary,” said Dr. Chris Rustin with the Chatham County Health Department.

The Coastal Health District’s daily average new case rate has been steadily climbing since early November, hitting a peak of 106 cases on the 26th.

Rustin says with ongoing community transmission, a negative test doesn’t mean much.

“Testing is simply a snapshot in time, and you may very well have been exposed too early in your incubation period to be able to test positive,” said Rustin, “and so it’s a false sense of security to get tested and think you are now safe to travel.”

Rustin, like the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, is advising against travel and continues to warn people about gathering

He says the consequences are already revealing themselves statewide as officials track nearly a 30% jump in hospitalizations.

“All of our actions affect that chain,” said Rustin.

“We need to ensure that our hospitals are adequately protected and that they have adequate capacity,” he added, “one way we can do that is getting a flu shot.”

Rustin says it’s absolutely vital we push COVID-19 fatigue aside and keep washing our hands, distance and wearing a mask.

He says the Coastal Health District is still testing about 500 people a day, and there are plenty of appointments available this week.

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