Think you have allergies? So do many people testing positive for COVID-19 in Texas

People wait to get tested for COVID-19 at a pop-up testing site in Los Angeles, Monday, Dec. 20, 2021.

FILE — People wait to get tested for COVID-19 at a pop-up testing site in Los Angeles, Monday, Dec. 20, 2021. Omicron has raced ahead of other variants and is now the dominant version of the coronavirus in the U.S., accounting for 73% of new infections last week, federal health officials said Monday. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)

AUSTIN (KXAN) – Texas health leaders say many of the people testing positive for COVID-19 right now thought they only had allergies.

Janet Pichette, chief epidemiologist of Austin Public Health, said local contact tracers are hearing from an overwhelming number of people who tested positive for COVID-19 before the holidays that they thought they were experiencing cedar fever or other seasonal allergies.

Cedar counts have been very high in the Austin area over the past few days.

Local health leaders are asking everyone to test if they are showing symptoms or if they’re planning to travel or gather. Without testing for COVID-19, people thinking they have allergies may be unintentionally spreading COVID-19 to other people.

If you feel sick, health leaders also ask that you stay home.

“We could have so many cases occur in such a short period of time and so many people having mild illness and just enough people who are at risk of severe illness…we will overrun our hospitals,” Dr. Desmar Walkes, the local health authority, said heading into the holidays.

On Sunday, the nation’s top infectious disease doctor acknowledged that he was frustrated with the limited supply of COVID-19 tests.

Demand for tests has risen amid the surge fueled by the omicron variant. “We’ve obviously got to do better,” Dr. Anthony Fauci said an interview that aired Sunday on ABC’s “This Week.”

“I think things will improve greatly as we get into January, but that doesn’t help us today and tomorrow,” Fauci said.

Fauci said he was pleased with evidence that omicron causes less severe illness for most people. But he warned against complacency because the rapid spread of the disease could “override a real diminution in severity,” because so many more people could get infected.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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