At-home COVID tests could help protect most vulnerable during holiday season, doctors say

Dr. Alok Patel says it great plan to have testing strategy conversation, but problem is finding these tests at your local pharmacy
SAN JOSE, Calif. (KGO) -- Could at-home COVID tests be the answer to safer holiday gatherings? Doctors we spoke with think so.

Antigen tests may be a way to protect your most vulnerable family members if you can find them.

In one week, imagine this: families back together again enjoying a Thanksgiving meal.

You'll ask Uncle Mark to pass the turkey and then you'll ask Aunt Julie to pass the COVID test?

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"When we go into the holidays gathering together, it would be great to ensure that we do negative testing before we're around vulnerable people," UCFS Infectious Disease Expert Dr. Monica Gandhi said.

Doctors say the unvaccinated, immunocompromised and the elderly are the most vulnerable this holiday season.

But at-home antigen testing can provide a fast and efficient way to protect these guests.

"These tests are basically looking to see if you have some presence of the virus in your nose," ABC7 News Special Correspondent Dr. Alok Patel said. "That isn't necessarily going to to say you're going to develop symptomatic COVID-19, you're going to become seriously ill or you're going to infect everyone in the room. But, it is telling you that there is some virus in your nose and it's a possibility."

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Dr. Patel says it great plan to have a testing strategy conversation, but the problem is finding these tests at your local pharmacy.

We put it to the test and drove around the South Bay to see how easy they are to find.

At both Walgreens and CVS, they are kept behind the register with set amounts customers can buy.

Employees told us they were available at the time we arrived, but people are buying them fast.

"They're asking themselves, what is the safest way to gather around the Thanksgiving table, the holiday table with my family and make sure no one is going to get infected," Dr. Patel said. "I think that's what's driving the kind of the demand right now for these antigen tests."

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The California Department of Public Health reports numbers of COVID cases and hospitalizations are not increasing.

With the use of proper testing, Dr. Gandhi says we can keep numbers low and avoid a holiday surge.

"We not only had unfortunately a lot of natural infections through last year's winter surge, but we have a relatively high vaccination rate," Dr. Gandhi said. "So, I'm really keeping my fingers crossed that there's not really going to be what we saw last year because of our high levels of immunity."

It's something she says to keep an eye on.

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