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I gathered with people for Thanksgiving, so when should I get tested for COVID-19?

Doctors say the virus may not start replicating in your system for 14 days, which could give you a false negative result if you test too soon.

HOUSTON — Now that Thanksgiving is over, should you get tested for COVID-19, or quarantine?

The answer is both. Doctors with UT Health say one negative test result does not mean you are in the clear.

Getting a COVID-19 test immediately after Thanksgiving may not give you an accurate result, according to Doctor Catherine Troisi, an infectious disease epidemiologist at UTHealth School of Public Health.

“You could have been exposed on Monday. You get that test on Tuesday: it comes back negative, and 5, 6, 7 days later you are shedding virus," Dr. Troisi said.

For anyone worried about an exposure on or around Thanksgiving, you should wait until next week to be tested, sometime around Dec. 1.

Even then, doctors say one negative result may not give you the full picture.

“A negative test result is just not a guarantee that you will not be infectious when you meet people," Dr. Troisi said.

Because COVID-19 has a 14-day incubation period, meaning it can take up to 14 days for the virus to start replicating inside your body.

Doctors say – after an exposure – you should quarantine for 14 days, and ideally, get tested two or three times over that span.

That 14-day quarantine window starts over at day one if you have another possible exposure.

“If you get a negative test, you can be pretty darn sure you were not infected when that sample was taken. It doesn’t tell you that the next day you may have virus," Dr. Troisi said.

Doctors say PCR tests (the nose swab) is significantly more reliable than a "rapid test" in telling you if you are truly negative at the time the you took that test.

As for Christmas, everyone who plans to attend should quarantine for 14 days ahead of Dec. 25.

That means avoiding people starting no later than Dec. 11, and even earlier if you plan to get together before Christmas Day.

Testing sites have limited openings over the Thanksgiving holiday weekend. Click here for Houston locations. Click here for Harris County locations.


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