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UT Health San Antonio experts offer new COVID-19 testing advice

Surge in cases has changed recommendations

SAN ANTONIO – A remix of rules for testing for COVID-19 is underway to clarify what is known about the disease and account for the massive surge of cases in San Antonio.

In March, only those with symptoms like fever and cough were allowed COVID-19 testing at public sites, and UT Health San Antonio says the surge has forced those sites to return to a more-disciplined test approach.

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Dr. Jan Patterson, professor of medicine and infectious disease at UT Health, says the city doesn’t have the capacity to test those who are asymptomatic because the number of sick patients is so high right now. The area also doesn’t have emergency room capacity for those who are not showing significant symptoms.

“The hospitals and the emergency rooms have a lot of people who are really sick, and that may need to get admitted to hospital, so that’s why we have to reserve the emergency rooms for those people,” Patterson said.

The medical rules of engagement have also gotten more specific. UT Health San Antonio is trying to get the word out that contact with a person who tests positive for COVID-19 is no longer considered an automatic exposure.

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Automatic exposure is now defined as being within 6 feet of someone who tested positive for more than 15 minutes of continual contact or conversation. And even then, doctors now want you to wait eight days before getting tested to allow the virus to be picked up by the lab analyzing your sample.

“The problem with that is that just in one or two days, you’re not going have enough coronavirus in your nose or your throat to be able to detect it,” Patterson said.

Before the 8-day delay, researchers are finding there is a 60% to 70% chance you will get a false negative result, giving perhaps a false sense of security. It generally takes between four and 14 days to develop the virus and possible symptoms, according to experts.

If you develop symptoms, it’s time to seek out a public testing site. The city has provided a map of locations here.

“If you do have symptoms, if you’re only mildly ill, get tested at one of the sites in the community and save the emergency room for if you’re feeling really very sick, very critically ill,” Patterson said.

To view the new UT Health San Antonio COVID-19 testing video, click here.


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