Following President Trump testing positive for Covid-19, several government officials, who regularly interact with him, have announced that they have gotten tested and the result came out negative. This includes Ivanka Trump, Vice President Mike Pence and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin. But here’s why a negative test result may not enough.
A test can produce a false negative.
“You can test negative one day and then test positive the next day, or even the same day, you can get two different results,” said Dr. Sanjay Gupta, CNN’s chief medical correspondent. “It’s why testing can only go so far.”
He recommended that every person who came in close contact with the President — more than 15 minutes, within six feet — needs to quarantine regardless of their test results.
“They need to be quarantined. Not just tested, tested is nice, it's important to have, but tests can come back false negative,” Gupta said. “Even on the day of the debate, test could have come back false negative. That's why everyone has to behave like they have the virus.”
You are most contagious before you show symptoms of Covid-19
People who test positive for Covid-19 are actually most contagious in the few days before they develop symptoms, according to Dr. Gupta, adding that this is what is different about this particular virus.
If Trump started showing symptoms on Thursday, it probably means that he was doing most of “the viral shedding in the couple three days before that,” Gupta said. “So now you're going back to Tuesday or Monday in terms of contagiousness.”
As contact tracing gets underway at the highest levels of US government, Dr. Gupta says “we're getting a look at what should have been happening in the country all along — this level of contact tracing, quarantining. If we would be doing this, it could have helped to curb this pandemic.”