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Durham family adds new Thanksgiving tradition - a negative COVID test

Posted November 24, 2021 5:09 p.m. EST
Updated November 24, 2021 5:35 p.m. EST

In many homes this Thanksgiving, a negative COVID-19 test is a must. Health experts have advised people to get tested or stock up on at-home tests before the holiday.

One family in Durham is making it a requirement for all guests to get their swabbing done.

Inside the Wagstaff household in Durham, right next to the Thanksgiving dinner spread, you will find a box of COVID-19 rapid tests. Each guest is required to take one before enjoying the gathering.

“This is good home-cooked food. You know you got to put love in it," said Jacqueline Wagstaff as she prepared her traditional Thanksgiving meal. Now, there’s a new tradition added to her preparations for guests.

“Upon them arriving, even though I know they’re all vaccinated, we go ahead and give you a swab so we can have another level of comfort," said Wagstaff.

The Thanksgiving host has a stockpile of at-home testing kits you can find at any CVS or Walgreens ready to go for each guest.

“It only takes a second. They can stop at the local grocery store on their way to my house. They can stop at the local anything on the way to my house and they can pick up one germ. One bug. That virus. And they can walk right in here," she said.

Her friend Eugina Rogers loves visiting for the holidays. She took a test at the home. “I think it’s wonderful that she’s doing this. It’s about being safe. It’s about protecting the people that you love," said Rogers.

Wagstaff was diagnosed with breast cancer last year. Like many, she had a unique holiday experience in 2020. So having the opportunity to share this time with her family and friends in-person means the world to her.

“I was raised on the farm. I’m used to big gatherings. I like to cook. You know people like to come eat my food so I’m just like where are my people at," she said.

While doctors say these rapid tests are not as accurate as the PCR tests, they will test for high viral load, which is frequent with Delta cases.

"I would use a rapid test the day of the dinner. I would test them the day-of. That’s what we’re doing at my house, and I think that’s the smart way to do it." The process is quick. Results come within 15 minutes," said Dr. David Wohl, an infectious disease specialist at UNC Health.

Wagstaff believes it’s worth the effort. “I’ll tell anybody, don’t sacrifice your health because I want to stick around for a long time,’ she added.

Although the rapid tests are very helpful, health experts say they can give a false sense of security. It’s still important to continue practicing COVID-19 precautions and to eat outdoors like this family plans to do if you can.

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