Doctors say negative COVID-19 test is not a green light for holiday gatherings


With the Thanksgiving holiday taking place next week, people are having to make tough decisions about their plans.

With that in mind, doctors said testing negative for COVID-19 shouldn’t be used as a green light to go to a holiday party.

“I don’t want people to have this false sense of security that a negative test before they gather for Thanksgiving makes them negative completely and they can go about their activity without any concern,” said Dr Mysheika Roberts with Columbus Public Health. “It’s a risk that people are taking if they think that getting a negative test before they enjoy Thanksgiving makes them negative and can make them take some of their guards down.”

Tests can give both false positive and false negative results.

One reason for the false results is the accuracy of the test itself

“The rapid tests are somewhere between 50 to 70 percent sensitive, meaning they only detect a valid positive 50 to 70 percent of the time, so we want to be cautious about that because a negative can potentially be a false negative.,” said Dr. Iahn Gonsenhauser with the Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center.

That’s why doctors say if you’ve been exposed, there’s no skipping quarantine even if you test negative.

“There are individuals who have developed symptoms on day 12, 13 or 14 after exposure, so that 14-day quarantine is there for a reason,” Roberts said.

“If you are exposed to COVID right before you have the test. Let’s say the day or 36 hours prior to having your test, there’s still a possibility that that test will be negative even though you’ve been exposed,” Gonsenhauser said. “A negative test does not get you out of quarantine. If you have an exposure potential so if you may have been exposed or you know you’ve been exposed, the quarantine period for 14 days stands no matter what your test may tell you. There is no way to test out of quarantine.”

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