Good Question: Do we still quarantine after a negative test?

Brennan Somers
Updated: July 09, 2020 12:20 PM
Created: July 09, 2020 04:07 AM

ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WHEC) — Our Good Question is about New York’s rules for travel and that quarantine.

A viewer named James sent News10NBC’s Brennan Somers this message: "With a surplus of COVID-19 tests in the Rochester area, why isn't the 14-day quarantine lifted if a person takes the test and it comes back negative? The science would tell us this is an unnecessary quarantine at that point."


Somers has gotten a few of these since the state put the travel guidelines in place. Here's the answer.

A negative result doesn't mean you don't have the virus or can put others at risk. This is known as a "false negative.”

There's plenty of research on this issue.

According to experts at Johns Hopkins, “The test measures infection, not exposure. Someone can be exposed on a Monday, not develop an infection yet on a Tuesday and test negative, but then develop a clinical infection on Wednesday and then have a positive test Thursday. So, quarantine needs to last for 14 days regardless of testing results.”

New York Department of Health also addresses this point on its common FAQ page:

Symptoms of COVID-19 can appear as late as 14 days after exposure. Therefore, a negative test cannot guarantee that you will not become sick. The full 14 days of quarantine are required.

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