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VERIFY: Negative COVID-19 test doesn't clear you

With Thanksgiving two days away, some are relying on COVID-19 testing to stay safe, but does a negative test now mean you're in the clear?

MACON, Ga. — With Thanksgiving two days away, some folks are preparing to travel or host large gatherings. Some are relying on COVID-19 testing to stay safe, but does a negative test now mean you're in the clear?

Michael Hokanson from the Georgia Department of Public Health and Dr. Daniel Riley from Coliseum Northside Hospital verify.

Does a negative test mean you don't have the virus and that you're safe to be around groups on Thanksgiving Day? Both Hokanson and Dr. Riley say the answer is "No." Timing plays a huge role.

"You can test negative on a Monday and that same day, hanging around people that are positive and then a few days later tested positive for COVID-19 if transmission had occurred, so negative results should not be a blanket statement for your future," Hokanson said.

"Even if you test negative doesn't mean that you don't have it and can't carry it, transmit it. The concern with the holiday coming up is that you're going to have a lot of people traveling, coming home from school, and you can be completely asymptomatic and yet still transmit the disease," Riley said.

Hokanson says the virus also has an incubation period of 2 to 14 days. Symptoms can develop and you can become infectious anytime during that window.

"All people react to the virus differently, but if you if you come into contact with an individual on, say, Tuesday, and then want to get tested Wednesday, chances are your test result will not be an accurate test result. You might test negative but could actually have the virus. Whenever we talk to a contact or close contact of a positive case, we tell them what what our recommendation is are to wait 10 days from that initial exposure and get tested that way that test is more viable than if you immediately get tested after an exposure, said Hokanson.

You should not let a negative test prior to Thanksgiving serve as a substitute for masks or social distancing.

"Limit your contact with others, keep small groups, wearing masks, hand sanitizing," said Riley.

Hokanson added, "Now is definitely not the time to forego those guidelines and protective measures. Now we should be thinking about it, especially since we are packed with our families during holidays."