Health experts are concerned about the potential surge of new coronavirus infections following Thanksgiving celebrations and travel, despite advice to avoid those activities altogether.
People who participated in large gatherings and traveled on public transportation had higher chances of exposure to COVID-19 than those who didn’t, so experts suggest those individuals, and anyone who spent the holiday with them, should get tested.
But not right away. Studies have shown that the average amount of time it takes for you to show COVID-19 symptoms after infection is five days — that is if you show symptoms at all.
Taking a COVID-19 test too early after contact with a sick person can lead to a false-negative because your body hasn’t produced enough of the virus the test can detect. The chances of getting a false negative test result decrease the more days that pass after possible infection or symptom onset.
The advice comes as the U.S. surpasses 13.3 million confirmed coronavirus cases and nears 267,000 deaths as of Nov. 30, according to Johns Hopkins — and as hospitals across the nation are reaching their intensive care unit capacity ahead of the holiday surge.
“We know people may have made mistakes over the Thanksgiving time period,” Dr. Deborah Birx, the coordinator of the White House Coronavirus Task Force, said in a Sunday interview with CBS’s “Face the Nation.” “If you’re young and you gathered, you need to be tested about five to 10 days later. But you need to assume that you’re infected and not go near your grandparents and aunts and others without a mask.”
That means any day this week would be an appropriate time to schedule a COVID-19 test.
“To every American, this is the moment to protect yourself and your family,” Birx told the outlet. “So if your governor or your mayor isn’t doing the policies that we know are critical — masking, physical distancing, avoiding bars, avoiding crowded indoor areas — if those restrictions don’t exist in your state, you need to take it upon yourself to be restricted. You need to not go to these places. You need to protect your family now.”
Dr. Peter Chin-Hong, an infectious disease professor at the University of California, San Francisco Medical Center, told ABC7 “for the most certainty, you quarantine for several days and get tested on day seven.”
“Right now, as people go back [home] we want to urge them, if they’ve been in situations outside of the family setting in which they really don’t know the level of exposure, to be really careful when you either return from the place that you went or other people come back into your house,” Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, told Martha Raddatz on ABC’s “This Week.”
This week is also a good time to avoid non-essential activities because people may not yet know they contracted the coronavirus during their Thanksgiving celebrations.
“Make really sure you adhere 100% to mask wearing [and] avoid crowds because you could inadvertently have gotten COVID and spread it, so just be careful during the week after your travel because you are at increased risk,” Assistant Secretary for Health Adm. Brett Giroir told CNN’s Dana Bash on Sunday’s “State of the Union.”
“Just remember you’ve had an increased risk of being exposed, so you should decrease unnecessary activities for about a week, and if you can get tested in three or five days that’s also a very good idea,” Giroir added.