Residents wait in long lines across Houston to get tested for COVID after the holidays

HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- After gathering with friends and family for Christmas, many people lined up Monday to get tested for COVID-19 as the omicron variant continues to surge.

"All I can do is wait. I've been several places and it's the same thing," said Houston resident Connie Dennis.

With at-home tests being hard to find, lines to get tested were backed up across the city.

"Last night I was out until about 9:00 and I couldn't find any at-home tests," explained Mitchell Pullum, who had been waiting for more than an hour at a testing site on the southwest side of town when ABC13 spoke with him.

"We are all frustrated by the limitation in outpatient testing. There are several initiatives in place to get more test kits into stores, but we won't start feeling those for another few weeks," explained Dr. Linda Yancey, an Infectious disease specialist at Memorial Hermann.

SEE ALSO: CDC cuts isolation restrictions for those who catch COVID

We asked Dr. Yancey a few top testing questions:

Who should be getting a COVID test after gathering for the holidays?

"If you just finished gathering and you're asymptomatic, I would tell people to hold on and see how you're feeling for the next few days. If you are symptomatic, it is very important that you go to get tested because we have so much omicron in the area right now," said Yancey.

What are the most common symptoms associated with the omicron variant?

"Omicron very much mirrors the other variants that we've had where most people will have congestion, sore throat, runny nose. The people who begin to get short of breath need to come into the emergency room to be evaluated because that can be a symptom of COVID pneumonia that can be so devastating," explained Yancey.

How long after being exposed to COVID should a person get tested?

"The incubation period tends to be three to seven days, so if you start feeling symptomatic within the next week, it's going to be important to go and get tested," said Yancey.

Dr. Yancey went on to explain early indications show the omicron variant, though more infectious than delta, may have milder symptoms.

"It's strange to say it, but a less severe disease that is more infectious than delta is a good thing because fewer people are getting seriously ill. Now, that being said, we still have a lot of people in the hospital right now. Folks still need to take precautions," said Yancey.

If you've got congestion, a sore throat or runny nose -- the common COVID symptoms -- you should go get tested, though likely it will take some time.

"It's frustrating but I think being safe is better than being sorry because it's real serious," said Dennis.

As at-home tests are supposed to become more available soon, we reached out to Texas Department of State Health Services officials to see if and how positive results from at-home tests will be tracked and if they will be added to the number of cases in the state. We found out, results from at-home tests will not be reported.

Their full answer to our question is as follows:

"Only the results of testing done by a lab or through a health care provider are required to be reported to public health. Many people are using at-home tests to determine whether it's safe to travel or gather with family and both negative and positive test results from these tests are not being reported to public health."

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