4. Understanding COVID-19 Testing
Typically, symptoms of COVID-19 start to show up five to six days after exposure to the virus, but in some individuals, the incubation period can be up to 14 days after exposure. However, prior to exhibiting any symptoms, a person can still be contagious and actively shedding the live virus.
Many people never develop symptoms of COVID-19; they are known as asymptomatic carriers. Despite not having active symptoms of the virus, they are shedding it and can actively infect other individuals. Therefore, everyone should quarantine for at least 14 days after exposure to the virus.
3. The Test for COVID-19
The COVID-19 test (PCR test) detects the genetic material known technically as SARS-CoV-2. The virus lives in the nose and upper throat. You can get a false positive test. On day one of exposure, the possibility of a false negative is 100 percent, but by the fourth day after exposure, the probability of a false negative is 67 percent, according to MIT Medical.
Even if a person is showing symptoms of COVID-19, the chance of producing a false negative is 38 percent. After a person has had symptoms for three days, the rate of false negatives drops to 20 percent.
Please remember that some tests and brands are more sensitive than others. The sensitivity of the test must be taken into consideration when undertaking the COVID-19 test. In some areas of the world, they are using tests that show a false negative only 5 percent of the time five days post-exposure.
2. COVID-19 Negative Test Considerations
Clearly, there are many factors to take into consideration when testing for COVID-19. If you do not have active symptoms of the virus and you are testing negative, then is it safe to visit a nursing home or see your elderly parents?
This is a very personal decision, but false negatives do occur frequently so there is no guarantee even with testing that you do not have COVID-19.
If you have been exposed to COVID-19 and you test negative for the virus, you still must self-quarantine for 14 days even after obtaining a negative COVID-19 test.
A negative COVID-19 test simply says that you have no active virus. It does not mean you do not have the virus. You might have a low percentage of the virus or the swab was unable to pick up a sample of the live virus at the time of testing.