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Why does coronavirus (COVID-19) testing matter so much?

People can be exposed to COVID-19 shortly after testing negative

DETROIT – Coronavirus (COVID-19) testing has been a major point of discussion and concern during the pandemic, especially as states take steps toward reopening. But why is there so much focus on testing when someone can test negative and then be exposed immediately afterward?

Even with daily testing, there’s a window of incubation in which someone could test negative even though they are developing COVID-19.

UPDATE -- May 11, 2020: Michigan coronavirus cases up to 47,552; Death toll now at 4,584

It’s not the negatives of testing that matter so much, but the positives, experts say.

If we discover someone is positive, that person can immediately quarantine at their home and take additional steps to reduce the risk of exposing their family members.

We can also do contact tracing, which means finding out who that infected person had contact with and urging those people to self-quarantine for 14 days.

When someone tests positive, their workplace can do additional cleaning to reduce the risk of the virus spreading from common surfaces.

One of the biggest challenges of the coronavirus is that people can be infected and spreading the illness without showing symptoms.

If testing picks up one of those people, that’s an opportunity to stop the spread, but even frequent testing isn’t perfect, and that’s why it doesn’t eliminate the need for other measures, such as wearing masks, hand washing and social distancing.


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