LITTLE ROCK, Ark. – As Arkansans return from the Thanksgiving holiday and prepare for Christmas, medical centers are doing their own preparing for a possible rise in testing. 

“I suspect that we might have more patients coming through for testing after the holiday,” said Dr. Jennifer Laudadio, chair of the pathology department at UAMS. The hospital says they’ve already seen a spike in testing as cases increase, with the most coming through in the days leading to Thanksgiving. 

“About two weeks before the holiday,” said Laudadio, “we did start to see increasing numbers.”

According to the Arkansas Department of Health, November 24th and 25th held the most PCR tests in the state.

But a nurse on the frontlines of the UAMS drive-through site says they expect an increase of 200 cars today alone, with that number expected to go up. 

“People who were exposed during the Thanksgiving holiday, about 5 or 6 days after they were exposed, they would start to have symptoms.”

Dr. Jennifer Dillaha with ADH says we won’t see those Thanksgiving tests until later this week, with a potential spoke also on its way during Christmas and New Year’s. For her, the concern is not only the increase in testing, but the increase in positive cases. “We’re seeing higher than expected cases of COVID-19 from the testing that we get,” Dillaha said. 

Hospitals are already preparing for more testers passing through. UAMS created appointment slots for staff and pre-procedure testing to help stem traffic, and are making plans to increase manpower in the drive-through line. 

“We have a good system in place, and we’ve always had contingency plans for surge volumes,” Laudadio said. To help avoid a mad rush to testing sites, doctors recommend only getting tested if you’ve been directly exposed, or start to feel those telltale flu-like symptoms. Everyone else should hold off for a few days, then take a PCR test if still concerned. “The people that I would most strongly encourage to get tested,” said Dillaha, “are those who develop symptoms.”

The Arkansas Department of Health recommends social distancing this holiday season, keeping gatherings to immediate household members only, and celebrating in well-ventilated rooms. Always remember to wear your mask, wash your hands frequently, and get a flu shot if you can.

More information on testing sites and recommendations can be found here.