Amid growing frustration over the societal limitations brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic, one social media user’s attempt at a “gotcha” is finding renewed life online.
“That special moment when u realize that Covid testers aren’t quarantined after coming in contact with those who test positive,” says text in an image shared on Facebook.
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The image was posted in November 2020, but users have recently started re-sharing it. The image accumulated almost 50,000 shares as of Dec. 17.
But the post ignores two key factors in virus spread – how medical personnel are shielded by personal protective equipment while administering the tests and how it only takes a few seconds to administer a test.
“People fail to understand how medical PPE works and protects them from infection,” Erin Bromage, who teaches about infection and immunology at the University of Massachusetts-Dartmouth, told USA TODAY in an email.
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The potential exposure mentioned in the Facebook posts is considered low-risk by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention since it lasts only a few seconds, so the chances of transmission are low. That’s why most workers administering COVID-19 tests won’t quarantine, a spokesperson told USA TODAY.
USA TODAY reached out to the poster for comment.
While all COVID-19 exposures should be monitored in case symptoms develop, some are considered lower risk than others. And the need to quarantine is based on that, experts say.
The CDC says anyone should quarantine if they have been in close contact – which they define as being less than 6 feet away from someone for a total of 15 minutes or more in 24 hours – with someone who has COVID-19.
The exposed person isn’t required to quarantine if they’ve been fully vaccinated, though it’s recommended they get tested five days after the exposure. If they develop symptoms at any point, such as a high fever or cough, the person will need to self-isolate and get tested.
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The guidance for health care workers is the same.
Most health care workers administering COVID-19 tests are “likely to be fully vaccinated,” CDC spokesperson Jade Fulce told USA TODAY in an email.
If the workers don’t develop symptoms, there’s no need to quarantine, according to the guidance.
But even those who aren’t vaccinated are unlikely to have to quarantine because they aren’t in close contact (as defined by the agency) with the people receiving the tests, Fulce said.
“The procedure of administering a COVID-19 test usually takes only a matter of seconds and definitely less than 15 minutes,” she said.
The CDC website notes the use of PPE further reduces the risk of exposure.
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Bromage, who created a blog during the pandemic to help people understand how the virus can spread, agreed with the CDC.
Bromage said medical personnel wearing proper PPE, such as facemasks and eyewear, do not have to quarantine if exposed to an infected person.
“A person conducting the testing would not meet the guidelines for having to quarantine,” Bromage said.
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We rate the claim that COVID-19 testers don’t have to quarantine after exposure to a positive case MISSING CONTEXT, because without additional context it could be misleading. Personnel administering tests are generally protected with PPE and are only exposed to potentially positive patients for a few seconds at a time. That exposure is far below the 15 minutes of contact within 6 feet that would require quarantining, according to CDC guidelines.
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