Post-travel COVID-19 recommendations, wait 5-7 days to get a test if asymptomatic

Published: Nov. 30, 2020 at 6:38 PM CST
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WAUSAU, Wis. (WSAW) - This year more than 9 million people went through TSA checkpoints between the Friday before and Sunday after Thanksgiving, a 40% decrease from 2019 with more than 23 million flyers. This, of course, does not account for people who drove to visit friends or family for the holiday.

As people get back from travel, though the CDC recommended against people traveling unless necessary during the COVID-19 pandemic, there are some steps to follow post-travel to help contain any spread that may have happened during the gathering or traveling experiences.

The Wisconsin Department of Health Services recommends people who traveled or gathered to quarantine for 14 days and monitor for COVID-19 symptoms. For those showing symptoms, Marathon County Health Department’s public information officer, Judy Burrows, said do not wait, get tested as soon as possible.

For people who are not showing symptoms, but want to ensure they did not contract COVID-19, Burrows said it is best to wait about five to seven days after exposure. If you get a test too soon, the amount of potential virus in your body could be too low to detect in a test.

She emphasized, a negative result “doesn’t get you out of quarantine early.” The virus can still intubate and show up later in that two week period.

DHS sent a health alert to health care providers Monday updating its testing guidelines for health care workers who are quarantined. In that guidance, Dr. Ryan Westergaard, the chief medical officer and state epidemiologist for communicable diseases, state new CDC data related to the sensitivity of the rapid antigen tests may be unacceptably low when used for screening asymptomatic people at about 41.2% sensitivity for the Quidel Sofia SARS Antigen Fluorescent Immunoassay rapid test. It was about 80% sensitive for people who had symptoms.

For non-health care workers, Westergaard recommended those who use a rapid antigen test and do not have symptoms should take the rapid test twice if the first test comes back positive to lower the likelihood of false-positive results. For the same group who are showing symptoms, he recommends taking the rapid test twice if the test comes back negative to lower the likelihood of false-negative results.

The molecular diagnostic test is more accurate and is recommended for people to get if available, but Westergaard stated the rapid tests when used with a two-test strategy is still supported by DHS.

To learn more about the different types of COVID-19 testing click here.

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