Exposed to COVID-19 on Thanksgiving? Doctors say wait to get tested

UCSF, Stanford doctors say get tested next week if there was COVID-19 risk from Thanksgiving Day

ByMatt Boone KGO logo
Sunday, November 29, 2020
Here's when to get tested for COVID-19 after Thanksgiving
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Think you may have been exposed to COVID-19 on Thanksgiving? Public health experts say, you should to wait to get a test.

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- Think you may have been exposed to COVID-19 on Thanksgiving? Public health experts say, you should to wait to get a test.

The coronavirus takes three to four days to incubate, reminds Dr. Peter Chin-Hong an infectious disease professor at UCSF Health.

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"If people wanted to asses risk on Thanksgiving Day, the earliest would be three to four days," he says. "So that would be after the weekend."

Though, for people not showing symptoms, he recommends waiting even longer.

"For the most certainty, you quarantine for several days and get tested on day seven," said Chin-Hong, though he admits that might not be possible for everyone.

VIDEO: Here's how Bay Area-based Lucira's new at-home test kit works

On Friday, the City of San Francisco was offering testing at the Alemany Farmer's Market parking lot.

Staff said they were busy most of the day, but one person told ABC7 he was able to walk-in without an appointment.

"Took about, honestly, five minutes," said Jason, who didn't want to give his last name.

He lives nearby and says he wasn't coming by for a particular reason, other than wanting to remain vigilant.

RELATED: Want to get a COVID-19 test in time for the holidays? Here's what you need to know

"I don't know who I'm exposed to," he said, adding, "I don't want to transmit it."

On San Francisco's "Get Tested SF" website, similar information is posted.

"We are currently experiencing high demand for testing. If you feel sick, get tested immediately. If you have a known exposure, you must wait 3 to 5 days for the virus to be detected," says the top of the website.

For those who are traveling, the website also says getting a test is not recommended.

"Do not use public test sites before traveling or gathering," says the website.

Asymptomatic people in San Francisco are asked to seek tests from their healthcare provider first instead.

In San Jose, it was a post-Thanksgiving rush to get tested for COVID-19 at the Santa Clara County Fairgrounds.

"People do want to get tested because all of our appointment spots are full," said Ivy Hylton, Santa Clara Valley Medical Center.

In fact, 3,000 daily slots at this particular county testing site are booked through the end of the weekend, which is a somewhat encouraging sign as more people seek out their status.

WATCH: Stanford doctor says if you spent Thanksgiving with people outside of your household, you should lay low and try to get tested next week

"We've seen an increase in the number of people, more symptomatic people coming to all our sites, requesting testing, so that's a change from several months before," said Hylton.

The high interest in testing comes as cases and hospitalizations are rising at alarming rates.

Furthermore, concerns over a Thanksgiving-related spike have local hospitals re-evaluating their surge plans.

"Just because you test negative today doesn't mean you won't turn positive next week," said Prof. Aruna Subramanian, M.D., Stanford School of Medicine.

RELATED: 'This pandemic is like a high speed train': Santa Clara Co. announces new restrictions as COVID-19 cases surge

Dr. Aruna Subramanian says if you spent Thanksgiving with people outside of your household, you should lay low and try to get tested next week.

"Before you're symptomatic, before your test comes up positive, you may still be infectious to other people and that pre-symptomatic phase is when infections can occur, transmissions can occur," she said.

To encourage more people to get tested, the Santa Clara County health system, including the team from Valley Medical Center will be making more appointments available next week at various sites throughout the county including the Mountain View Center for the Performing Arts and the Cupertino Senior Center.

Walk-up spots will also be open at places such as Emmanuel Baptist Church in East San Jose.

By mid-December capacity at the fairgrounds will expand to up to 5,000 appointments a day all with the goal of making testing more accessible to the public.

"We're able to make a change for the community. We're able to help them by providing this service for the community," said Hylton.

A forward-thinking approach to testing that could make all the difference.

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