Dr. Fauci Says This Is Exactly When You Should Get Tested for COVID
For accurate results, there's an ideal window of time to be tested after you're exposed.
While the amount of testing for COVID-19 in United States has increased significantly over the course of the pandemic, the testing process is not without a number of problems. There is still a shortage of tests in some areas of the U.S., patients are being told they will have to wait up to two weeks to get results when it should only take a few days, and results are often inaccurate. For example, according to Harvard Medical School, if you are tested on the same day you were directly exposed to, or in close contact with, an infected individual, you will get a false negative result—meaning the test will say you're not infected when you are—100 percent of the time. That's because the virus needs to be in your body for a period of time in order to be detected. So, if not right away, then when should you get tested for COVID? According to Anthony Fauci, MD, there is specific window of time that will yield the most accurate results.
"I would think five [days] is good," Dr. Fauci said on July 29 during a Facebook Watch live interview with ABC News chief medical correspondent Jennifer Ashton, MD. "I might even go a day or so early because the incubation period of when you get symptoms is about five days," Fauci explained. "If that's the case, I would think the virus is probably replicating on day three, four, five."
Though he said there is no official recommendation for when a person should be tested after they know they been directly exposed to the virus, what's Fauci's rule of thumb? "I would say no earlier than day three and no later than day five or day six," he said.
The National Institute of Allergy and Infections Diseases (NIAID) director's guidelines more or less align with the ones from Harvard Medical School—though the latter institution's provide a bit more detail. According to Harvard, the chances of a false negative result go from 100 percent on the day of exposure to 40 percent if you are tested four days after exposure. If you have symptoms and are tested three days after they began, the chances of a false negative are only 20 percent. And for more insights from Dr. Fauci, check out The One Way Dr. Fauci Says You're Not Protecting Yourself From COVID.