Negative COVID-19 test not enough to rely on for the holidays, health experts say

Reporter: Breana Ross Writer: Jack Lowenstein
Published: Updated:
Credit: via WINK News.

More restrictions are coming across the United States, as coronavirus cases surge.

People in Chicago are asked to stay at home. Philadelphia banned indoor gatherings. California reinstated broad restrictions, and Iowa mandated masks.

This comes as Florida reports more than 4,000 confirmed COVID-19 cases Monday. Over the weekend, Sunday saw the state reach its highest reported case count since July 25, with more than 10,000 cases.

Long lines were at CenturyLink Stadium’s COVID-19 test site to begin the week, continuing the trend we have seen. The test site had a technical glitch, which caused the lines.

But we learned that a negative test result is not enough to rely on if you want to see your family at Thanksgiving. Doctors are saying a negative test does not mean you don’t have COVID-19.

They say this is not new. We’ve known that there are chances of false negatives and false positives since testing started. But it’s something to keep in mind if you plan on getting a test before you go see family for Thanksgiving. A negative test does not mean you are safe from spreading the virus to those you love.

Celebrating Thanksgiving with food and family. That’s a given for most people any other year. But this Thanksgiving is filled with tough decisions about how to celebrate safely.

“We’ll go home,” said Linda Hirakis, visiting from Ohio. “We’ll quarantine for 14 days, but we will do Thanksgiving just by ourselves, the two of us.”

“Small group, maybe like seven people,” said Skyler Mendez in Cape Coral. “That’s it, just close family.”

“Our kids are going to join us, one from New Jersey, one for Maine,” said John Clark, visiting from Maine.

Professor Bindu Mayi, an infectious disease expert at Nova Southeastern, said a negative test result does not mean someone doesn’t have COVID-19. Sampling errors, the type of test and timing can all play a role in accuracy. If you’re infected shortly before your test, it may not show up.”

“Once the virus gets into the body, it has to make more copies of itself, and that’s how it comes to a level that can be detected by a diagnostic test, so there’s a window of time for that,” Mayi said. “Just because you’re negative doesn’t necessarily mean that you are negative.”

John and Louise Clark visiting from Maine say they don’t just plan to rely on their tests before gathering with family. They’ll take an extra step too.

“We will definitely quarantine before Thanksgiving for sure,” Louise said.

Quarantining is what Mayi says is the best way to make sure you can safely celebrate with your loved ones.

With less than two weeks away from Thanksgiving, the 14-day quarantine period before Thanksgiving has already started. If you decide to quarantine, Mayi says you have to make sure everyone in your household is also quarantining for the best outcome.

“The only real way that you can be a sure that you don’t have the virus that you can transmit to a grandparent who is high risk or a parent who is high risk or a sibling who is high risk is if you just quarantine,” Mayi said.

Researchers from the Georgia Institute of Technology, the Applied Bioinformatics Laboratory and Stanford University have created the COVID-19 Risk Assessment Planning Tool, which is updated daily and “shows the risk level of attending an event, given the event size and location.”

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