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Infectious disease expert: What qualifies as significant exposure to COVID-19 and when to get tested

Dr. Ruth Berggren clarifies misconceptions when it comes to testing, transmission

SAN ANTONIO – As the COVID-19 cases continue to surge in Bexar County, you may be wondering whether you’ve been exposed to the disease and when you should get tested.

Dr. Ruth Berggren, an infectious disease specialist with the Long School of Medicine at UT Health San Antonio, answered those questions during a Q&A with KSAT on Thursday.

Who should get tested?

Berggren said people with COVID-19 symptoms should get priority due to the number of people rushing to get tested right now.

“We have some different messaging for you about testing where we were previously telling every asymptomatic person who wanted a test to come in. We’ve changed our message,” Berggren said. “The priority should be on people who have COVID(-19) symptoms, shortness of breath, dry cough, high fever, loss of your sense of smell or taste or diarrhea.”

Do not go to the emergency room to get tested. Berggren said emergency rooms need to be reserved for only emergencies. Instead, you should get tested at one of the approved Metro Health testing sites. If you have a primary care physician, call them to see whether they are providing tests.

What is a significant exposure?

As medical professionals learn more about COVID-19, they are learning more about transmission. Experts have found that you are more likely to contract COVID-19 by being next to someone carrying the virus rather than by touching a surface.

“Significant exposure is one where you have been within 6 feet of another person who has COVID(-19) and you were within 6 feet for 15 minutes or more without masks,” Berggren said.

When should you get tested if you’ve been exposed?

Berggren said that you should wait at least eight days after you’ve been exposed to COVID-19 before getting tested or wait until you’re showing symptoms, whichever comes first. If you get tested right away, it could result in a false negative.

“As you wait day by day, the risk of the false negative goes down and the chances that you would have a true positive goes up, and your best chance of having a true positive test is going to be eight days after a significant exposure,” she said.

You should stay home and away from other people while you wait for your test results.

RELATED: Coronavirus update San Antonio, June 25: Single largest daily increase of COVID-19 cases reported in Bexar County

WATCH: Dr. Berggren discusses what COVID-19 models are predicting if we don’t flatten the curve


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