Why Can’t You Test Out of Your COVID-19 Quarantine?

You can’t test out of your 14 day COVID-19 quarantine after you have been exposed to someone with COVID-19.

Most people understand that they can’t test out of quarantine, right?

A quick reminder that close contacts of someone with COVID-19 need to quarantine for 14 days.
A quick reminder that close contacts of someone with COVID-19 need to quarantine for 14 days.

After all, if they are around others before their quarantine is over, they could end up exposing others to COVID-19!

Why Can’t You Test Out of Your COVID-19 Quarantine?

But why can’t you just test out of your COVID-19 quarantine?

Basically, if you have a negative COVID-19 test early in your quarantine period, it doesn’t mean that you can’t develop symptoms or test positive later on.

“If you are tested and the test is negative, do you still have to be quarantined?
Yes. Someone exposed to a person with COVID-19 needs a 14-day quarantine regardless of test results. This is because COVID-19 can develop between two and 14 days after an exposure.”

Coronavirus Questions and Answers

Testing negative doesn’t get you out of quarantine.

A negative test simply means that you don’t have an active infection. It doesn’t mean that the SARS-CoV-2 virus isn’t still incubating inside you. And no, we can’t test for that.

So why get tested?

“If you do not have symptoms, it is best to get tested between 5-7 days after you’ve been in a high-risk situation.  If your test is negative, get tested again around 12 days after the event. It can take 2-14 days for COVID-19 to develop, so even if you test negative once, you could still develop COVID-19 later and spread it unknowingly.”

Symptoms and Testing: COVID-19

Getting tested can be helpful because some people can test positive even if they don’t have symptoms, they can still be contagious, and this can help with contact tracing and can help you warn others that you exposed them to COVID-19.

Ideally, since you are in quarantine, you would not have exposed anyone else though…

And if you test positive?

Well, technically that does get you out of quarantine, but only to move you to a period of isolation, which is basically a stricter form of quarantine and lasts at least 10 days.

More on Testing out of Quarantine

How Long Are You Contagious When You Have COVID-19?

There are strict rules that dictate how long you are contagious and when you are most contagious when you have COVID-19.

Why is it so important to know how long you are contagious when you have COVID-19?

There are strict rules that dictate how long you are contagious when you have COVID-19.
There are strict rules that dictate how long you are contagious and when you are most contagious when you have COVID-19.

Of course, it is so that you don’t expose anyone else and get them sick too!

How Long Are You Contagious When You Have COVID-19?

Fortunately, knowing how long you are contagious when you have COVID-19 isn’t as confusing as it might seem.

Those people with severe symptoms or a severely weakened immune system might be contagious for a much longer period of time though, up to 20 days.
Those people with severe symptoms or a severely weakened immune system might be contagious for a much longer period of time though, up to 20 days.

In general, you are contagious until 10 days have passed since your symptoms first appeared, as long as you are free of fever and your other symptoms are improving.

But what if you never had any symptoms of COVID-19?

“If you continue to have no symptoms, you can be with others after 10 days have passed since you had a positive viral test for COVID-19.”

When You Can be Around Others

If you had a positive COVID-19 test, but no symptoms, then you will continue to be contagious until 10 days after the test.

Other things you should understand about COVID-19 include that:

  • although you are generally contagious for 10 days after your symptoms start or you had a positive test, you can be contagious even earlier, up to two days before you develop symptoms (presymptomatic transmission)
  • you are most contagious in the first days when your COVID-19 symptoms start when viral load peaks
  • it is possible that you could continue to test positive for up to three months, even though you are out of the range of time when you are considered contagious (viral load is too low to cause disease), which is why most experts don’t recommend retesting after someone is diagnosed with COVID-19, especially as a method to figure out when to end home isolation
  • you should start making COVID-19 antibodies within 5-10 days of getting sick, which is thought to make you less contagious
  • while you are likely contagious for at least 10 days (how long you should stay in isolation) when you are sick with COVID-19, if on the other hand, you are exposed to someone with COVID-19, you need to quarantine for 14 days – that’s the incubation period for COVID-19 – how long it might take to develop symptoms after being exposed

Don’t want to deal with any of this?

Wear a mask, practice social distancing, wash your hands, etc., and work to avoid getting COVID-19!

More on COVID-19

Going Back to School During the COVID-19 Pandemic

What does going back to school during the CO pandemic look like?

For most parents, the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has complicated their plans to send their kids back to school.

Going Back to School During the COVID-19 Pandemic

We can likely all agree that if it could be made safe for kids, teachers, and other support staff in schools, then kids should go back to school.

So what’s the problem?

Depending on where you live, the size of your school, and the number of cases, etc., it may not be possible to make schools that safe. After all, how much social distancing can you do in a classroom full of kids? And will kids, especially younger kids, really wear a face covering all day?

Sending Your Kids Back to School

On the other hand, if your community is doing a good job of keeping COVID-19 case counts down, then maybe it is safe, or at least, safe enough, to send most kids back to school.

Online or virtual schooling will be a safer option for higher risk kids.
Online or virtual schooling will be a safer option for higher risk kids. Fill out and review the CDC’s Back to School Decision Making Tool with your pediatrician if you aren’t sure what to do about school.

Going back to school might be a good option for:

  • kids who are healthy, without any high risk medical conditions, like diabetes or poorly controlled asthma
  • kids who have no high risk contacts at home, keeping in mind that in addition to having a chronic medical problem, the risk increases with age, especially once you reach age 65 years.
  • kids who have an IEP or get any kind of services or therapy at school that you can’t get at home
  • kids who did poorly with online school last spring
  • kids who are eager to go back to school

Most importantly, going back to school might be a good option for your kids if you are confident that your school has a good plan to keep your child and everyone else in the school safe.

Do they have a plan to cohort kids together, so that every kid in the school isn’t mixing with each other? What is their plan if someone gets sick? What is their plan if a lot of kids get sick?

It is also important to remember that virtual school isn’t a good option for everyone. Having a safe school to go to will be important for those kids who don’t have a parent or caregiver at home to help them with school or because they don’t have a reliable internet connection, etc.

Going to the School Nurse During the COVID-19 Pandemic

If your kids do go back to in-person school, what happens if they get sick?

“Immediately separate staff and children with COVID-19 symptoms (such as fever, cough, or shortness of breath) at school. Individuals who are sick should go home or to a healthcare facility depending on how severe their symptoms are, and follow CDC guidance for caring for oneself and others who are sick.”

Operating Schools During COVID-19

Should they go see the school nurse, if your school is fortunate enough to have one?

“School nurses are essential healthcare providers in the community working on the frontlines of the COVID-19 pandemic in schools.”

Considerations for School Nurses Regarding Care of Students and Staff that Become Ill at School or Arrive Sick

In addition to the problem with a bunch of contagious kids in the school nurse’s office, it is easy to see that it will difficult, if not impossible, for health care professionals at school to easily know if a sick child has COVID-19, strep throat, a cold, or the flu, etc.

“The overlap between COVID-19 symptoms with other common illnesses means that many people with symptoms of COVID-19 may actually be ill with something else. This is even more likely in young children, who typically have multiple viral illnesses each year.”

Screening K-12 Students for Symptoms of COVID-19: Limitations and Considerations

There is also the fact that a child who goes to the nurse’s office with a cough, runny nose, or headache, etc., might not have a contagious disease at all, as these symptoms can also be caused by asthma, allergies, and migraines.

“Remember that schools are not expected to screen students or staff to identify cases of COVID-19. If a school has cases of COVID-19, local health officials will help identify those individuals and will follow up on next steps.”

Considerations for School Nurses Regarding Care of Students and Staff that Become Ill at School or Arrive Sick

Fortunately, there are plans in place to deal with all of these scenarios.

Still, everyone should understand that most “sick kids,” whatever they have, will likely be sent home from school, just in case they have COVID-19. While that might sound drastic, the risk of getting others sick if they did have COVID-19 is too great.

“Actively encourage employees and students who are sick or who have recently had close contact with a person with COVID-19 to stay home.”

Operating Schools During COVID-19

So how do these plans work?

Back to School COVID-19 Sick Policies

While each state and school district seems to have their own back to school sick policy, in general, what to do should likely depend on the child’s symptoms, the possibility of an alternative diagnosis for the symptoms, potential for exposure to someone with COVID-19, the amount of community spread in the area, and COVID-19 test results, etc.

The Minnesota COVID-19 decision tree is for people in schools, youth, and child care programs who are experiencing symptoms consistent with COVID-19.
The Minnesota COVID-19 decision tree is for people in schools, youth, and child care programs who are experiencing symptoms consistent with COVID-19.

If one thing isn’t clear in all of these guidelines, it is to your pediatrician – we typically won’t be able to simply say that your sick child doesn’t have COVID-19 and can go back to school.

“A doctor’s note or negative test should not be required to return to school. Some tests can yield false negatives if taken too soon, and individuals with confirmed COVID-19 can continue to test positive after the infectious period has passed. Antigen tests currently are not as reliable in determining a true negative.”

Decision Tree Tool for School Nurses

Fortunately, many of the guidelines seem to understand this and don’t require a doctor’s note when kids have very mild symptoms.

“If the person is sent home, they can return to the school or program 24 hours after the symptom has improved.”

COVID-19 Decision Tree for People in Schools, Youth, and Child Care Programs

They aren’t perfect, but hopefully we can use these guidelines to help balance keeping those kids who might have COVID-19 out of school, perhaps learning virtually, while those kids who don’t remain at their desks.

More on Back to School

Getting a Covid-19 Test Before Going to Summer Camp

Who told your child’s summer camp to test all of their kids for COVID-19?

Are your kids among the 11 million kids who usually go to a summer camp or day camp each year?

Do you have any memories about summer camp from when you were a kid?
Do you have any memories about summer camp from when you were a kid?

Are they going this summer?

Did you plan for a COVID-19 test?

Getting a Covid-19 Test Before Going to Summer Camp

While many parents are likely thrilled that their kids can still even go to camp, they might be confused on why they need to get a COVID-19 test if their child hasn’t been sick.

Your pediatrician is likely shaking their head about it too.

Memories of summer camp this year might include a weekly nasal swab for COVID-19 testing.
In addition to pushing tests while staff and kids are at camp, some camps want to have kids tested before they arrive.

After all, there is no recommendation for general testing in the guidelines for opening up summer camps.

Instead, the CDC says to “screen children and employees upon arrival for symptoms and history of exposure.”

“He said that optimally camps would retest each camper upon arrival and several times more through the summer: six times for a seven-week session and four times for a five-week session.”

Summer Camp Kids Are America’s Coronavirus Test Subjects

The CDC guidelines on Youth and Summer Camps do mention testing.

“Some camps might have the capacity to conduct COVID-19 testing. CDC has guidance for who should be tested, but these decisions should be made in conjunction with state and local health departments and healthcare providers.”

CDC on Suggestions for Youth and Summer Camps

But still, that guidance isn’t to test everyone, but only those who are high risk, with symptoms, or with suspected COVID-19.

What’s the problem with testing everyone at camp?

It could lead these camps to rely too much on testing instead of cleaning and disinfecting and encouraging hand hygiene, respiratory etiquette, cloth face coverings, and social distancing, etc.

Remember, COVID-19 tests can give false-negative results, so some people might actually be infected with the SARS-CoV-2 virus and have a negative test. Without a healthy environment at camp, that person might get many other kids and staff members sick.

And a true negative test just means that you are negative when the test was done. It doesn’t mean that you will remain negative until you have your next test.

Also, just because you aren’t testing everyone doesn’t mean that you can’t test those kids and staff members once they begin to show symptoms.

Are your kids going to summer camp this year?

Do they need a COVID-19 test before they go and while they are at camp?

More on COVID-19 Tests for Summer Camps