When Gina Lee-Satomi was occupied with driving to Southern California final month to assist take care of her aged mother and father and 100-year-old grandmother, she anxious that she or her son may transmit the coronavirus to her family members.
However Lee-Satomi, who lives in San Francisco and had been rigorously following stay-at-home orders, had struggled with a lingering, on-and-off cough since February. She needed to ensure it wasn’t the coronavirus earlier than she reunited along with her household. Each she and her 10-year-old son obtained a coronavirus diagnostic take a look at, and examined adverse, earlier than continuing to her mother and father’ house, the place they plan to remain for a few weeks.
“I used to be like, ‘It could put my thoughts comfy,’” mentioned Lee-Satomi, 47. “It made me really feel like I wasn’t going to unintentionally kill my household.”
Because the coronavirus pandemic stretches into its fourth month, preserving many households aside for longer than ever earlier than, many individuals are getting examined, or contemplating getting examined, earlier than seeing household and buddies — particularly if they’ve family members and buddies who’re at greater danger of turning into gravely sick due to age or power well being situations like diabetes or autoimmune problems.
Public well being officers haven’t issued any steering on whether or not individuals who should not have signs ought to get examined for this function. Officers typically advise testing for individuals who have COVID-19 signs and for individuals who should not have signs however who usually come into contact with sick sufferers, members of the general public, or high-risk people — similar to well being care employees, important employees and employees at nursing properties.
However now that entry to checks has vastly improved, in contrast with the early days of the pandemic, infectious illness specialists say it’s affordable for individuals to think about getting examined earlier than coming into contact with a member of the family, particularly if the member of the family is high-risk. However getting examined just isn’t a foolproof manner of guaranteeing you’ll not transmit the virus.
“If you happen to’re going to see an older relative, I can’t say you could do it,” mentioned Dr. Yvonne Maldonado, chief of pediatric infectious illnesses at Stanford College Faculty of Drugs. “I’d say it’s one thing you think about doing. There’s one essential caveat. If you happen to take a look at your self now and also you’re adverse, you don’t know you’re going to be adverse while you see them. … It’d be good if lets say, ‘Simply get a take a look at and also you’ll be tremendous,’ however we don’t know that.”
If somebody will get examined and contracts the virus earlier than coming into contact with their good friend or member of the family, they might nonetheless unfold the virus. To scale back the chance of that taking place, specialists advise getting examined as shut as doable to the day you intend to come back into contact with somebody. And think about avoiding conditions the place you is likely to be uncovered through the window in between getting examined and seeing them. After Lee-Satomi obtained examined, as an illustration, she canceled a deliberate cherry-picking tour along with her son as a result of it was scheduled the day earlier than they drove to see her mother and father.
If you happen to do come into contact with relations earlier than you’re in a position to take a take a look at, or earlier than you obtain the outcomes, put on a masks within the meantime, mentioned Dr. George Rutherford, head of the division of infectious illness and epidemiology at UCSF. Rutherford’s daughter, who lives in Virginia, did simply that when she got here house to the Bay Space for a month in Could to stick with her mother and father.
“It wasn’t sensible to get a take a look at there, so she obtained on a aircraft, got here house, the subsequent day we obtained her examined,” he mentioned. “She wore a masks, the subsequent day obtained the outcome, took the masks off, that’s the place we’re. … I believe getting examined simply earlier than you come, or while you first get there, makes excellent sense to me. Till you recognize you have got a adverse take a look at, preserve a masks on.”
There’s one other complication: It’s doable to check adverse and nonetheless be contaminated with the coronavirus. This will occur if somebody will get examined too early within the virus’ life cycle, when the focus of viral particles is just too low to be detected in a take a look at. It takes about three days from the time of publicity to when virus particles are at excessive sufficient ranges to generate a optimistic outcome.
Most false-negative outcomes occur as a result of individuals obtained examined too early, earlier than there have been sufficient virus particles to be detected, not as a result of there was an issue with take a look at efficiency, Rutherford mentioned.
Whether or not members of most of the people who should not have signs ought to be examined for the aim of reuniting with family and friends raises moral questions. Lee-Satomi did think about whether or not she could be utilizing a useful resource wanted by well being care employees who ought to get examined usually. She wouldn’t have requested a take a look at had she been planning to remain house for the foreseeable future, she mentioned, however felt it was value doing as a result of she was going to see her getting old mother and father.
Rutherford mentioned there are sufficient testing sources now for well being care employees, and if somebody is taking a take a look at to forestall spreading the virus to a frail, high-risk particular person, they don’t seem to be misusing it as a result of it’s for illness prevention.
Persons are additionally weighing different elements when looking for testing. Erik Utter simply moved from San Francisco to his mother and father’ house in Calaveras County, and obtained examined inside a number of days after he arrived. Utter, 29, didn’t have any signs however sought testing “extra as a peace of thoughts factor.” He examined adverse.
He is aware of San Francisco has been a lot more durable hit by the virus than Calaveras County — the town has about 2,600 instances, in contrast with Calaveras County’s 13 — and needed to ensure he didn’t unfold it to his mother and father and their buddies locally.
“God forbid I transfer up right here and there’s an outbreak two days later,” he mentioned.
There isn’t a cut-and-dried technique on the subject of getting examined earlier than reuniting with family and friends, Rutherford mentioned.
Somebody who has been strictly following stay-at-home orders for months might not want a take a look at as a lot as somebody who has been out in crowds not too long ago with out a masks — similar to final week’s Black Lives Matter protests. Somebody who’s planning to see a member of the family for 30 minutes of their driveway might not want a take a look at as a lot as somebody who’s planning to maneuver in to take care of an sick, immunosuppressed relative.
“These are all judgment calls,” Rutherford mentioned. “If I have been at a protest the final three days and never sporting a masks, can I get a take a look at and go see grandma? I’d say, that may make me fear,” he mentioned. “I’d need you to attend 14 days and get examined on the finish of 14 days. If I’ve been sheltering in place and watching TV and sitting in my yard for 2 months and I’d prefer to see grandma, I’d say, OK, go get examined and see her.”
Catherine Ho is a San Francisco Chronicle employees author. E-mail: email@example.com Twitter: Cat_Ho