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Tampa Bay Health Officials Clarify Questions on Testing

TAMPA, Fla. (CW44 News At 10) - Amid another surge in coronavirus cases, Tampa Bay health officials are getting ahead of unanswered questions by breaking down the differences between PCR and rapid tests and what to consider before taking one.

"The rapid tests are great because they're exactly that – they're rapid. They're less fancy technologically," said Dr. Kami Kim who serves as Director of Infectious Diseases and International Medicine for USF Health and Tampa General Hospital. She says you should consider your circumstances before deciding.

"The PCR test is more accurate. It's less likely to have, what's called, a false negative. In other words, if you have Covid, a PCR test is the gold standard," said Dr. Kim.

With a huge demand for the PCR test, though, Dr. Kim says it's vital to assess your situation before coming to a decision. For example, medical professionals suggest that immunocompromised patients get the test you have access to at that time.

"Get the test you can get. If you're concerned and symptomatic you should contact your healthcare provider and see whether it makes sense to go ahead and get a PCR test as well." But if you live a quick-paced lifestyle and need to know sooner, she says symptoms may exceed preference. "Getting tested quickly when you have symptoms is probably more important because you don't want to transmit it to other people, you may have to make decisions about work and other types of things so you may need to know quickly," said Dr. Kim.

What local doctors continue to reiterate to Floridians is that vaccinations and guidelines should be a top priority.

"If you're not vaccinated, you need to get vaccinated. If you're not boosted, you need to get boosted. Masks, distance, everything we've been trying to do during the pandemic," said Dr. Michael Teng, also with USF Health's sector.

"The vaccine works. It keeps people out of trouble as far as landing in the hospital," said Dr. Kim. "Wearing masks, keeping distance, washing your hands, it makes a difference. Is it perfect? No."

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