COVID-19 tests could be hard to come by in days before Christmas

With many people getting tested for COVID-19 before traveling or gathering with family, finding an at-home COVID-19 test or COVID-19 test appointment could be challenging.

FOX 9's Hannah Flood tried to find COVID testing appointments at pharmacies like CVS and Walgreens and found that many had very few, if any, appointments available Tuesday through Friday ahead of Christmas. Many Minnesota Departments of Health testing sites had limited appointments but do offer walk-in testing (see below for more information).

She also struggled to find stores that had at-home COVID tests in stock. One store said they had tests, but when she went to go buy one, employees told her the tests had sold out that day, and they didn’t expect to get more before Christmas.

Dr. George Morris with CentraCare says people using rapid or at-home COVID tests should consider taking several tests a week to get an accurate result. He said those tests typically aren’t as accurate as PCR tests administered at pharmacies and clinics.

Dr. Morris says if you’re getting together with people on Saturday, Christmas Day, he recommends taking a rapid or at-home test on Thursday and again the morning of the event.

For PCR tests, he recommends scheduling a test for Wednesday or Thursday since results can take a few days to get back.

Bottom line, he says, if you’re experiencing symptoms you should skip holiday events to prevent others from getting sick.

Dr. Morris says even though, at last check, 99 percent of the cases he’s seeing people admitted to the hospital with include the Delta variant, he’s concerned about how quickly Omicron is spreading and how those cases could add to their already overwhelmed system.

"We will see more Omicron throughout Minnesota. Our challenge will be if it currently comes on top of our current Delta surge. That would be just terrible," Dr. Morris said.

Expanded COVID-19 testing through the holidays

The state’s COVID-19 community testing sites in Minneapolis and St. Paul will open two hours early and expanding its daily test capacity starting December 20, Minnesota Governor Tim Walz announced Thursday.

Along with increased testing in the Twin Cities, the state is adding testing days to the community testing site in Duluth. COVID-19 tests in Minnesota are free, with or without insurance. Here are the adjustments:

Minneapolis at the Convention Center – Expanding Holiday Hours

  • December 20-23: 9 a.m. – 6 p.m.
  • December 27–30: 9 a.m. – 6 p.m.
  • January 3: 11 a.m. –6 p.m.
  • January 4-7: 9 a.m. – 6 p.m.
  • Return to regular hours week of January 10

Duluth at the DECC – Adding Two Extra Days

  • Adding Monday, December 20: 11 a.m. – 6 p.m.
  • Adding Monday, December 27: 11 a.m. – 6 p.m.
  • Return to regular hours January 3

Saint Paul at Roy Wilkins Auditorium – Expanding Holiday Hours

  • December 20–23:  9 a.m. – 6 p.m.
  • December 27–30: 9 a.m. – 6 p.m.
  • January 3 – 6: 9 a.m. – 6 p.m. (January 3 in Exhibit Hall; January 4-6 in Ballroom)
  • Return to regular hours week of January 10

Appointments are strongly encouraged. Walk-ins are available. Locations and hours of all the state’s community testing sites can be found here.