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What to consider before retaking a COVID-19 test

“The vast majority of transmission will be gone by the new recommendations that the CDC has said, and that would be five days,” said Dr. Steve Threlkeld.

MEMPHIS, Tenn. — As COVID spreads throughout the Mid-South in yet another surge, some at the end of their quarantine are wondering when is the best time to retake a COVID-19 test.

With all the changes to COVID guidelines, we know it can be a little confusing.

“The problem is, is that as we try to make better guidelines to really represent the idea that everybody is a little bit different, they're a little bit more roads to follow down the pathway of what to do,” said Dr. Steve Threlkeld, Baptist Memorial Hospital Infectious Disease expert.

One of those roads involves COVID testing.

When should you retake a COVID test after testing positive?

“The vast majority of transmission will be gone by the new recommendations that the CDC has said, and that would be five days,” said Dr. Threlkeld.

These days, COVID tests are hard to come by easily. If you aren’t able to get a test or simply don’t want to take another test, there are other ways to tell if you still have the virus.

“Wait at least five days, and you need to be asymptomatic, really without fever on that fifth day,” said Dr. Threlkeld.

Also, trust the results.

“In almost all circumstances, a positive test is much more convincing than a negative test. You're much more likely to be falsely negative than you are falsely positive, a lot more likely,” said Dr. Threlkeld.

Let’s say you are positive and retest after the recommended five days. The kind of COVID test you take matters.

“Most of the transmission of this virus is from a couple days before you get symptomatic, on through about three or so days afterwards,” said Dr. Threlkeld. “You don't really want to do a PCR test, or necessarily even a rapid RNA test, because they can remain positive for some time, certainly several weeks even after exposure. I think most clinicians actually favor getting an antigen test if you can get one.”

With COVID tests in high demand and some businesses and organizations requiring proof of negative tests, it can get frustrating; however, doctors say it is worth it.

“If you can get your hands on one, it's probably a good idea to do that test, I think. And if it's negative, it's just a little more assurance that you're not going to give it to somebody else. If you have a positive test at day four or five, though, you need to probably continue to quarantine at home for the for the balance of the full 10 days,” said Dr. Threlkeld.

Health experts also recommend wearing your mask even after quarantine in case you can still spread the virus.

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