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Negative COVID tests don't guarantee health ahead of Thanksgiving, doctors say

Medical experts say if someone tests negative for COVID-19 this week, it doesn't mean they will be healthy next week.

FEDERAL HEIGHTS, Colo. — The line of cars waiting for a COVID-19 test in the Water World parking is as long as it’s ever been.

Nearly 3,900 people were tested at this location Friday. Compare that to the beginning of the month, when just over 1,600 tests were administered on November 1.

"More testing is better than less testing for sure," said Dr. Richard Zane, Chief of Emergency Services at UCHealth. "This is one of the scariest times in the COVID pandemic in the last nine months."

As we head into a holiday week in the middle of a pandemic, health experts are warning that getting tested before gathering for Thanksgiving isn’t enough to guarantee your safety.

As Colorado tests more people than ever before, doctors warn a negative test shouldn’t give you a green light to have Thanksgiving dinner at grandma’s.

"A negative test, any COVID test, should not in any way shape or form change your behavior or allow you to change your behavior that you otherwise would not have made," said Zane. "These tests are simply not yes and no. They are yes, you have COVID. Or maybe you might not have COVID but don’t behave differently."

We asked 9Health Expert Dr. Payal Kohli to help explain.   

"Don’t think about a test today as giving you a pass to travel tomorrow or to see your family on Thanksgiving without wearing those masks or having social distancing," said Kohli. "The test is almost a snapshot in time, not just for when you took the test but of those few days before the test when you had that exposure."

The 7-day average positivity rate in Colorado is at 12.35% as hospitalizations remain at record levels.

New testing locations are opening up around the metro area to try and identify more infected people. Jefferson County Public Health is opening several new testing sites Sunday. Christine Billings is the head of the county’s Office of Pandemic Response.

"We want to move our testing sites close to our community to allow ease of access," said Billings. "We want to bring more testing to the community so we can identify cases and make a greater impact on the case rates that we’re seeing that are increasing exponentially in our community."

RELATED: Over 50 COVID-19 testing sites open in Colorado; here's how to find one

RELATED: CDC recommends Americans don't travel for Thanksgiving amid rise in COVID-19 cases

As the pandemic rages on, it’s best to keep in mind the best tools we have to keep ourselves safe.

"The only thing that we have to fight this pandemic is physical distancing, mask wearing, and washing your hands," said Zane. "The vast majority of infections have come from small groups and small groups of families hanging out together. Thanksgiving is going to be a very dangerous time."

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