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Negative COVID-19 test does not guarantee safety

Posted at 4:10 PM, Nov 24, 2020
and last updated 2020-11-25 10:30:16-05

During the holiday season, people are racking their brains for ways to get together safely with loved ones. One of those steps could be getting a COVID-19 test to make sure they don't have the virus, but that is not a sure bet.

U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Jerome Adams says negative tests are only good for that day because of the virus' incubation period.

"It takes on average five days, but up to 14 days after you have been exposed to have symptoms," said Dr. Adams. "A negative test yesterday or Sunday doesn't mean that you are safe tomorrow. It doesn't mean that you can relax your precautions."

It also matters what you do after you get your test.

"You're negative at the moment you get your test results," said Jennifer Meyer, a registered nurse. "You can leave the testing site, say go to the grocery store, get exposed, and then contract the virus."

For holiday travelers, that includes places like airports and gas stations. That is why the CDC, along with medical experts, have urged people not to travel for Thanksgiving.

"We are literally going to start vaccinating vulnerable people within the next couple of weeks," said Adams. "But we just need you, the American people, to hold on just a little bit longer and it's not too late to have a safe holiday celebration."