I Have Been Exposed to COVID-19: When to Get Tested for the Most Accurate Results

August 11, 2021

As the Delta variant spreads throughout the country, with the worst infections occurring among the unvaccinated, odds are high you will come into contact with someone who tests positive for COVID-19.

It’s important to understand why the Delta variant is unique and, if you find you’ve been exposed when you should get tested for the most accurate results.

Why is the Delta variant of COVID-19 a concern?

The Delta variant of the COVID-19 virus is of particular concern because, according to the CDC, it is more easily transmitted between people than other strains of the virus. It is possible to transmit the Delta variant of COVID-19 even if you are fully vaccinated, though most of the current hospitalizations and deaths are occurring in the unvaccinated populations.

I think I was exposed – what should I do?

As has been the case since the onset of the pandemic, the CDC defines COVID-19 exposure as having close contact with a person who tests positive for COVID-19. Close contact is considered being within 6 feet of someone for 15 minutes or longer.

“Another important factor is when that person with whom you were exposed developed symptoms or tested positive for the virus,” said Texas MedClinic Chief Operating Officer and practicing physician Dr. David Gude. “If you were them at least 2 days or 48 hours before symptoms or a positive test, then it is a true exposure. If you were with them a week prior, you were not exposed as they were not contagious this many days before symptoms began or tested positive.”

If you have been exposed to someone who tested positive for COVID-19, getting tested yourself is important but, according to Dr. David Gude, Chief Operations Officer at Texas MedClinic, when you get tested is critical for obtaining accurate results.

“If you have been exposed and are vaccinated and asymptomatic, there is no recommendation for quarantine, but it is recommended to have a COVID-19 test 3–5 days after your exposure,” says Dr. Gude. “Getting tested any earlier can lead to a false negative result as the virus has not had time to develop enough viral particles for accurate testing.”

Vaccinated individuals who test negative can continue without quarantine(Difference between quarantine and isolation) but should be cautious and wear a mask for any indoor activities that include other people.

Exposed, unvaccinated and asymptomatic individuals are still advised to quarantine for a full 14 days. Testing is recommended on day 6 or 7. If test is negative, local health authorities are recommending the full, 14-day quarantine especially in light of the high rate of positive tests in our communities.

If you are experiencing COVID-19 symptoms, schedule your test on day 2 after developing symptoms for the most accurate results.

“We want to test symptomatic COVID-19 patients earlier, so we can prescribe treatment like monoclonal antibodies particularly in those who are immune-compromised or have conditions like obesity, diabetes, heart or lung conditions,” said Dr. Gude. “The earlier treatment begins, the better the outcome for the patient.”

How Can I Protect Myself and My Family?

  • If you have not been vaccinated, get your COVID-19 vaccine, and make sure everyone over the age of 12 in your family is vaccinated. Getting vaccinated is safe, easy, free, and effective in preventing you from becoming seriously ill or hospitalized. It is also the best way to protect those in your family under the age of 12 who cannot yet get vaccinated.
  • Wear a mask indoors in public
  • Stay 6 feet away from people who do not live in your home
  • Avoid crowds, large gatherings, and poorly ventilated spaces
  • Wash your hands frequently
  • Cover your face when you cough and/or sneeze
  • Clean and disinfect high-touch surfaces regularly

Monitor your health by watching for symptoms and taking your temperature should symptoms develop.

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