Testing is key to tracking COVID-19, but how and when makes a big difference – Denver, Colorado

Denver, Colorado 2020-10-18 11:56:41 –

DENVER (KDVR) – As COVID-19 cases increase in our region and hospitalizations increase, health experts agree the virus is not going away anytime soon.

“The reality is January 1, 2021, it’s not over yet,” said Dr. Michelle Barron, medical director of infection prevention at UC Health University Hospital in Colorado.

Dr Barron says that after a person is exposed to someone with COVID-19, testing too early can be misleading.

“Once you’re exposed it’s not wham-bam and you’re sick in the moment,” Barron said. “It usually takes three to five days for the infection to appear.”

Barron recommends getting tested no earlier than five days after being exposed. She stresses the importance of quarantining a full 14 days after exposure in the event of significant contact, regardless of the test result.

“Some people don’t test positive until day 13,” Dr Barron said.

As for the reliability of the tests, Dr Barron says there are many factors; that’s why health experts rely on symptom screening in combination with testing.

“There are all these variables, how badly have you been rubbed, they rubbed both sides,” said Dr Barron.

For example, she says the 15-minute rapid antigen test could produce false negatives, but rarely produces false positives.

“They have very few false positives, so if they’re positive it’s usually good,” Dr Barron said.

Rapid two-hour PCR tests, she notes, work best with a full nose-to-throat swab. However, Dr Barron says there is a 40 to 60 percent chance of a false negative for people without symptoms.

In addition, tests performed only on the nose would be 20% less sensitive, said Dr Barron.

Dr Barron says to isolate for 10 days after testing positive.

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