People Weigh in On the Effectiveness of COVID Tests Before Holiday Gatherings

The holidays usually mean big family gatherings. Thanksgiving dinner just wouldn’t be the same without extended family gathered around the dining room table arguing about politics and religion, you know, topics that are sure to get people riled up.

This year, the CDC recommends keeping gatherings to the smallest size possible. Ideally, it would just be the people already in your household or you would switch the family meal to Zoom.

Dr. Fauci agrees with the guidelines to avoid traveling to visit family over the holidays, and he is practicing what he preaches. He has said that his daughters won’t be coming home for the holidays this year.

Some people simply can’t imagine skipping family gatherings over the holidays, and some families have resorted to asking their holiday guests to get tested for COVID-19 before they meet in person.

Is a COVID-19 test a good idea?

Your guests might be resistant to getting tested, and they may find it difficult to find a place to get tested. In some areas, you can’t get tested for COVID-19 unless you have symptoms or were exposed to someone who tested positive for COVID-19, but it is definitely easier to get tested now than it was back in March.

Laura Miranda-Browne has been talking to her family about quarantining and getting tested since this summer. The first conversations didn’t go well, but now, her relatives have come around and planning to get tested before Thanksgiving. Miranda-Browne says she is thankful that it’s easy to get tested where she lives.

Assuming your guests are able to get COVID-19 tests, are they effective?

If a COVID-19 test gives a positive result, that is definitely useful information. That person may be asymptomatic, and without getting tested might’ve hung out with the family and spread the virus to multiple people, potentially getting someone very, very sick.

However, if a COVID-19 test comes back negative, that does not 100% guarantee that the person does not have the virus. Neel Shah is an infectious disease specialist and faculty member at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine. He said that while a COVID-19 test can “help detect the presence of coronavirus,” there is such a thing as a false negative.

Besides the possibility of a false negative, unless everyone is able to quarantine from the time they take the test until the family gathering, there is a chance they could get the virus after they are tested. 

Follow CDC Guidelines

Even if you ask your guests to get tested for COVID-19, it is still a good idea to follow best practices like social distancing and wearing face masks. If the weather is nice, dinner outside would be a good idea. This is not the time for the grandkids to hug their immunocompromised grandparents.

Are you going to be changing your usual holiday plans this year due to COVID-19? If you are going to be spending the holidays with family and friends, will you all get tested for COVID-19 before gathering?