COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH) – COVID-19 numbers are worse starting this year than they were at the beginning of 2021.

New cases are higher, the positivity rate is much higher, and COVID-19 hospitalizations are at a record high.

Because of this, doctors said testing is as crucial as ever, but tests have been hard to find, and doctors are hoping as the new year gets underway, finding a test becomes easier.

“I think it really is a bit of a perfect storm because you have a new variant that’s more contagious than any that have come before it,” said Dr. Brad Fuller with Central Ohio Primary Care. “The testing, while it’s much better than it was 18 months ago, is still in short supply, not as much as we would like to have.”

Fuller is hoping testing availability improves, especially with the onset of winter.

“The only way to know for certain if you’ve got a cold or the flu or COVID-19 is to be tested,” he said.

But there is something to look for on those at-home tests: expiration dates. If you picked up a test recently, it doesn’t hurt to check, but you likely don’t have to worry about it being expired. If you have had kits sitting around the house for a while, however, you’ll want to look.

“Some companies have said these tests will work beyond their expiration date, but in all honesty, it’s really hard to keep track of which companies have prolonged expiration dates,” said OhioHealth Infectious Disease Expert Dr. Joseph Gastaldo.

If someone who has symptoms tests positive with an expired test, it’s likely accurate. However, Gastaldo said negative results from expired tests might not be as trustworthy.

“If there is a negative test, if somebody has symptoms or there’s a negative test in somebody who’s asymptomatic, with an expired expiration date, that test would deem to be less reliable,” he said.

Some stores will likely have tests in stock if you search for them, and some central Ohio health departments said they are expecting to receive more test kits this week.