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Health

Looking for a COVID test in Louisiana? Here are some resources that can help

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As COVID-19 case numbers soar in Louisiana and across the country, demand for COVID-19 tests continues to outpace supply.

The rise of the omicron variant and a post-holiday surge in cases has sent flocks of people to testing sites across the state.

Louisianans who months ago may have secured a same-day testing appointment and rapid results from their local pharmacy now have to expand their search. At-home test kits that were once widely available are sold out in stores and online. And the Louisiana Department of Health has officially recommended that only people who were exposed to someone with COVID-19 or experiencing COVID-like symptoms seek out a test.

If you’re in need of one amid the omicron surge, here are some resources for tracking down a COVID-19 test:

WALGREENS AND CVS

The single largest provider of COVID-19 tests in the state is Walgreens, which has partnered with the state department of health and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to provide COVID-19 tests at select locations.

Similarly, CVS offers COVID-19 testing at thousands of locations across the country and is one of the leading test providers in the state of Louisiana.

The tests cost nothing for the patients, but the pharmacy may request insurance information when booking an appointment. According to the pharmacy giants’ booking platforms, only a handful of the dozens of participating Walgreens and CVS locations in the Capital Region and Greater New Orleans area had available time slots after the 2021 holiday season. And the few time slots available were for PCR tests with a three- to five-day wait time for results.

EAST BATON ROUGE

The East Baton Rouge parish government has a full list of 57 non-Walgreens testing sites in the parish on its website. The list includes urgent care clinics, single-purpose testing facilities and provides contact information and hours of operation for each site, but does not include information on test turnaround times or how much each test costs.

The list also includes many of the parish’s largest physician groups and hospital systems, where tests are administered to existing patients by appointment only.

Late December, LDH partnered with the Louisiana Army National Guard to open two temporary testing sites in the parish at the Louisiana Leadership Institute on Hooper Road and the LSU AgCenter’s Mini Barn. Additional Information and pre-registration are available at http://www.orion.healthcare/community.

ASCENSION PARISH

Information on Ascension Parish’s 11 testing sites outside those offered at Walgreens can be found on the LDH website, 211 or by contacting the Ascension Parish Health Unit.

ORLEANS PARISH

In addition to the usual slate of testing options at pharmacies, urgent care clinics and community health centers, the City of New Orleans also operates a handful of mobile testing sites in the parish. The city has published a daily schedule of the testing locations on its NOLA Ready website.

New Orleans Public Schools are operating their own testing sites for students set to return to classrooms after the winter break starting Tuesday, Jan. 4. The first testing site for the spring semester will be held at the Akili Academy of New Orleans from 10 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. and the Orleans Parish School Board offices from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m.

More information on school testing sites can be found here.

JEFFERSON PARISH

There are 20 testing sites in Jefferson Parish, including two drive-up sites run by the parish government at the Johnny Bright Playground in Metairie and the Alario Center in Westwego. The sites are operated by Accu Reference Medical Lab. People seeking a test are encouraged to pre-register on the company’s website.

The parish provides updates on test availability and hours of operation on its Twitter and Facebook pages.

ST. TAMMANY PARISH

Information on St. Tammany Parish’s 15 testing sites outside those offered at Walgreens can be found on the LDH website, 211 or by contacting the St. Tammany Health System.

OTHER PARISHES

The Louisiana Department of Health keeps a comprehensive list of COVID-19 test sites in each parish, which can be found here.

WHAT ABOUT AT-HOME TESTS?

With the groundswell of demand for tests, the rapid at-home test kits that once lined pharmacy checkout lines are becoming increasingly scarce. Most test kits are sold out or back-ordered online, and the kits that are readily available are far more expensive than options available before the holidays.

A single DxTerity COVID-19 saliva collection kit — which still requires users to mail their samples to a lab before they can receive a result — costs $85 on Amazon. Other offerings from On/Go can be purchased but will take more than a week to arrive.

The Biden administration has pledged to mail Americans more than 500 million at-home rapid tests starting in January, but those tests have not yet arrived in Louisiana.

WHAT IF I CAN’T FIND A TEST?

The Louisiana Department of Health acknowledges that with national supply shortages, it is unlikely that everyone who wants a COVID test will be able to get one. On Dec. 31, the Department issued guidance on what people exposed to COVID-19 or experiencing COVID-like symptoms should do when tests are in short supply.

The LDH says most people with COVID-19 — especially those who have been vaccinated — will experience mild symptoms. They urge people who think they have COVID to contact their doctor early and follow their advice, in addition to staying hydrated and taking over-the-counter medicines like acetaminophen to alleviate some of their symptoms.

While people with symptoms are encouraged to get tested as soon as possible, the LDH advice for vaccinated, asymptomatic individuals exposed to someone with a confirmed case of COVID-19 is different.

Those who have been fully vaccinated, but have not been boosted, are encouraged to stay home for five days, then attempt to get tested. After five days and a negative test, those individuals can leave home as long as they wear a well-fitted mask around other people.

Individuals who are fully vaccinated and have received their booster dose can leave their homes as long as they are asymptomatic, but should wear a mask around others for at least ten days after exposure. They too are encouraged to get a COVID test on the fifth day after their possible exposure.