When to test for COVID-19 after holiday gatherings

Coronavirus

LONE TREE, Colo (KDVR) — Dozens of vehicles stretched out of the parking lot at Sky Ridge Medical Center and down the street Sunday, as people waited to get a COVID-19 test after the Christmas holiday.

The scene at the Douglas County testing site is just one example of people searching for tests. Doctors urged people, vaccinated or not, to get tested before holiday gatherings. However, it may be too soon to tell who was exposed or infected during Christmas celebrations.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidance is to test if you are exhibiting COVID-19 symptoms. Those who have been in close contact with a confirmed COVID-19 case should also get a test. For vaccinated individuals, the CDC says to wait five to seven days after exposure. Unvaccinated people should test immediately. If the test is negative, try again five to seven days after exposure.

Dr. Bill Janssen, critical care specialist with National Jewish Health, said the highly-contagious omicron variant may be changing that timeframe slightly.

“The omicron variant seems to be more infectious, in general. Before, if you had an exposure to a person, unless you were in really close contact in a room that didn’t have good ventilation or airflow, your chances of getting infected were not as high as with omicron,” Janssen said.

Janssen said a positive test may show up sooner than the typical five-day mark with this new variant. He said the type of test is also important in timing.

“Your likelihood of getting a positive in someone that’s infected is greater with a PCR early on in their course. The rapid test is not quite as sensitive as the PCR. Super early in their course, someone could have an infection but the rapid test could miss it,” Janssen said.

State health officials said anyone who needs results by New Year’s Eve should test no later than Dec. 27.

Resources to find a COVID-19 test:

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