Oklahoma City doctor discusses importance of timeline in COVID-19 testing

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OKLAHOMA CITY (KFOR) – Many people are getting tested for a sense of security during the COVID-19 pandemic but when you get tested is key to protecting yourself and those around you.

“We’re not going to test our way out of this thing,” said Dr. Kersey Winfree, with SSM Health St. Anthony.

Winfree says the time frame between COVID-19 exposure or possible exposure is critical. He tells his patients, in general, testing should not start until four to six days after a possible exposure.

“The virus has to replicate and reach a certain level of viral count within your body before the actual testing reliability really is ideal,” he said. 

Winfree says the window of growth or incubation of the virus is typically between four to 14 days.

So if your first test is negative, should you test again?

“That depends on a lot of factors. If you’re re-exposed, yes,” Winfree said. “If you develop additional symptoms then certainly that would be an important thing to consider, is re-testing.”

What test works best? Winfree says PCR nasal swab tests are most reliable and antigen tests should be verified by a PCR test if possible.

“The antigen testing is reliable only if you have a positive test,” he said. “A negative test doesn’t really tell you much with the antigen test but it again, its utility comes from the ability to get the test done.”

This local doctor is once again stressing the need for all the precautions we know; social distancing, handwashing and the use of masks to slow the spread and lessen the heavy burden on our healthcare systems right now.

“Right now, it is an incredible balancing act trying to manage all the usual healthcare things that we take care of in hospitals and clinics while balancing the needs of our COVID-19 patients,” said Winfree.

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