Doctor warns getting a COVID-19 test before your holiday gathering isn’t a fail-safe


AUSTIN (KXAN) — Doctors are warning those planning to head home for Thanksgiving that getting a COVID-19 test ahead of time isn’t necessarily a fail-proof way to ensure they won’t spread the virus, if they haven’t been quarantining ahead of time.

“We’re already starting to see a surge in cases,” said Dr. Nicholas Steinour, Emergency Department Director at Ascension Seton Medical Center in Austin.

Steinour says the hospital is preparing for more as Thanksgiving approaches.

“Sadly, what we’re hearing is people are tired of this. They’re fatigued. They want to get back to quote, ‘normal life,’ and that does not line up with reality right now at all,” Steinour said. “The problem is the risk now is about as high as it’s ever been for us here in Central Texas and Austin, specifically.”

Steinour says families preparing to celebrate Thanksgiving in-person should take distancing precautions seriously.

“Being outdoors, much safer than being indoors,” he said. “You can spend time, have quality memories built and made at six-feet distance.”

For anyone who hasn’t been quarantining a full 14 days ahead of time, he says, “A day or two before you’re planning to get together, going and getting a COVID test would be a next level up, as far as safety.”

However, someone could test negative and still become contagious in the days after that test result, even before showing symptoms.

Steinour also warns that while traditional PCR test results may not come back in time, there’s a trade-off for a quicker antigen test that will yield results in time for holiday gatherings.

“The rapid tests are quick, they’re easy, and they’re a little less accurate,” Steinour said, reinforcing the importance of masks and distancing or virtual get-togethers.

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