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elbanditoroso's avatar

A serious question about coronavirus testing - does it really tell us anything?

Asked by elbanditoroso (27819points) 2 weeks ago

Suppose that a person goes for coronavirus testing. They get their results back in 4–5 hours, and it is negative.

Having a negative test today doesn’t guarantee that the person won’t be infected tomorrow or next week.

I guess my question is: the virus testing is a snapshot of a person’s condition today, but isn’t (and can’t be) and guarantee about the future. If that’s the case, why is there so much emphasis on negative results?

Or am I thinking about it all wrong?

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9 Answers

RedDeerGuy1's avatar

A negative test frees up resources for treatment. Also it helps us track the progression of the virus.

mazingerz88's avatar

It tells us we can breathe a sigh of relief ( less paranoia ) but that’s all, the preventive measures continue.

Response moderated (Unhelpful)
Response moderated (Unhelpful)
seawulf575's avatar

It is a snapshot of the current health, that is true. But there are probably a number of people out there that have it and don’t know it yet. Screening would help identify those and let us take some preemptive action to isolate them.

zenvelo's avatar

An example of a benefit from testing:

A man visited his mother in an elder care facility on San Rafael CA on March 5. He flew home to Massachusetts the next day. The day after that he was told he had been exposed to possible infection before he had gone to California.

The band called the elder care facility and told them he had been exposed and was awaiting test results. The elder care facility isolated his mother, went into preventative quarantine. Fortunately, the man’s test came back negative.

Having negative results means people who might be otherwise affected can relax.

Caravanfan's avatar

It tells you you’re not infected at that time.

JLeslie's avatar

if we did it in a massive way we would have more information for how widespread, how many people get severely ill as a percentage of those who contract it, and other stats. H1N1 was making people hysterical as the next Spanish flu, but the stats wound up not as bad as expected, although it was unfortunately more punishing to young children than most of our flus that circulate.

If you are positive and not very sick you can probably feel relieved you’re done being nervous during this time. Most likely it gives us immunity BUT nothing is confirmed on that. We don’t really know yet. I really would like to know that. You still have to worry about touching surfaces and giving it to others.

If you are positive you have to isolate yourself from others.

In the end, it is just a moment in time.

SEKA's avatar

It means that just because you test negative today, it doesn’t mean that you won’t be positive over the next 2 weeks. That’s why I’m in no hurry to be tested. My plan is to stay within the confines of my own home and only be tested if and/or when I have definite symptoms. My doctor’s office is directing us to do nothing until we have a temp of 100.4 or higher and then call the office for further instructions. Since there is no cure, the most they can offer is to deal with the symptoms as they arise. We’re not allowed to go to the hospital except for dire emergencies

We’re being asked to not freak out and to use some common sense as to when it’s time to talk to a doctor. Most of our doctor’s visits are handled by speaking with a doctor face to face via a teleconference on our computer. If we can stay at home to recover, that is what we’re expected to do. Actually, the thought of going to a hospital right now scares me worse than having the virus itself. Unless my symptoms become dire, I’d prefer to stay at home and deal with them there. Visitors are being limited at the hospital for the foreseeable future

I’m just doing my best to stay as calm as possible and deal with the fallout as it strikes. This situation is beyond my control so freaking out would serve no useful purpose

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