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Should you get a COVID-19 test after Thanksgiving? We asked an expert

Top doctors across the Texas Medical Center are concerned about one prevailing threat right now: the potential surge of coronavirus cases emerging right after the Thanksgiving holiday. According to the Texas Department of Health, Texas has registered 1,168,111 positive COVID-19 cases since the outset of the pandemic, with 190,631 confirmed cases in Harris County.

“With all the cases that are climbing and with the widespread family travel, there’s no way to be confident that things will be fine. In fact, all signs point the opposite direction. We have large exposures,” Dr. James McCarthy, the executive vice president at Memorial Hermann hospital, told Chron.

PICTURE OF COMPASSION: Houston ICU doctor hugs COVID-19 patient on Thanksgiving in viral photo


If you joined in Thanksgiving gatherings with immediate family or friends, the pivotal question that’s being posed is straightforward: Should you get tested for COVID-19 or quarantine right after the Thanksgiving holiday?

In a Q&A with Chron, Dr. McCarthy weighed in on the steps to take if you joined in holiday gatherings.

Should we get tested for COVID-19 or quarantine after you gather with family? Should we do both?

It’s a hard question, because there’s lots of variables. For example, If I had traveled to Boston to see family members who live there and we had a non-distanced meal inside because it’s cold up there, then I’d absolutely get a test. If you know you were exposed to someone, then you absolutely should self-isolate and get a test immediately if you have symptoms.

Do you think that getting a negative result right after Thanksgiving is enough? Do you think it gives you a false sense of security in preventing the virus?

If you were exposed the day before, getting tested the next day is not as valuable. Assuming you have no symptoms, give it a little bit of time between your exposure and when you get tested. However, if you have symptoms, get tested right away. If you don’t have symptoms but had exposure, give it 5-7 days from your point of contact before you get tested to increase the chance that you would get a positive test.  We know that the vast majority of people are going to develop symptoms within the 7 days.

How concerned are you about a spike occurring in Houston right after the Thanksgiving holiday?

I’m absolutely concerned about a spike. We have lots of kids traveling from college. Lots of school-aged kids traveling to see grand-parents. Even people who were COVID-19-free pick it up during their travel period and are not symptomatic before they leave. They could be infectious for a day or two before you have symptoms. We very clearly expect that this may increase now as families got together. We know for a while that family gatherings have been a major source of spread throughout the community and as a community, [and] we all did a bunch of that.

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