(KRON)– Contra Costa County is offering free COVID-19 test kits to residents that want some before the holidays, and in just the first four hours the county received 900 orders. Infectious disease experts say that with COVID cases ticking up, having everyone who plans to attend your Thanksgiving gathering test before coming adds that extra layer of protection.

Dr. John Swartzberg, a UC Berkeley infectious disease specialist, stated that he is “glad to see that we’re seeing some proactive stuff coming from public health.”

“The key thing with the test is, yeah, it’s not a completely reliable test, and a negative test doesn’t say with 100% certainty you don’t have COVID. But it says with a pretty high level of certainty that you’re not infectious with COVID. And that’s the question you’re asking,” stated Dr. Bob Wachter, Chair of UCSF’s Department of Medicine.

But testing is just one step. Another is staying home if you have any signs of illness.

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“If anybody has a sniffle, or a little sore throat or scratchy throat, and think it’s just an allergy. No, the agreement would be you just don’t come, if you have any symptoms that could possibly be COVID or influenza or RSV,” stated Dr. Swartzberg.

Doctors say gathering outdoors rather than indoors remains a better option, if possible, but the best way to protect yourself is the new omicron-specific booster. Dr. Swartzberg stated, “That is probably the backstop to prevent you from getting really sick, winding up in the hospital and tragically, some people dying. So that’s number one.”

Doctors say recent studies indicate the new booster is better at fighting both ba5 and the new variant bq1. And even though Thanksgiving is less than two weeks away, getting the booster now can help.

“You begin to see immunologic benefit from a booster really after several days, and it seems to peak or reaches its maximum at two weeks. But if you get it in the next couple of days, it will have some value for you at a Thanksgiving event. So, if you have the opportunity to do and you haven’t done it yet, now would be a terrific time to do it,” informed Dr. Wachter.