Health expert said living, working downtown isn’t reason enough to get tested for COVID-19

MADISON, Wis.– A warning from Public Health Madison and Dane County to assume you’ve been exposed to the coronavirus if you’ve been downtown recently sounds startling, but it’s only an extra reminder to be careful.

“Given the large concentration of cases downtown and around campus, we’re reminding folks who live and work in the area that they should act as though they’ve been exposed to the virus,” spokesperson Christy Vogt said.

Elise O’Brien lives and works downtown and said she has been careful all summer and assumed she could catch the virus anywhere.

“For me, everything I’ve been doing isn’t changing too much,” O’Brien said. “Just want to be cautious all the time.”

The message did confuse her co-worder, Lizbeth Huertas, who wonders what this means for her other responsibilities.

“I’m still expected to go to my in-person lectures even though now I have to assume that I’ve been exposed. So, am I right to assume I’m exposing everyone in my lecture of 100 people?” Huertas said.

UW Health’s Dr. Nasia Safdar said simply living or working downtown isn’t reason enough to get tested.

“I think there’s two situations where you would want to get tested. One is certainly if you get symptoms, even mild symptoms. The other is if public health, through their tracing, identifies you have been exposed to the point where you need to get tested,” Safdar said.

Safdar explained community spread happens through large droplets and contact, which is why wearing masks and physical distancing is so important.

“Nothing is 100 percent, which is why removing the social gatherings and nonessential activities is still very important,” Safdar said.

Safdar said if someone has any symptoms it’s worth going to get tested, but some of the more distinguishing symptoms are fever, cough, chest tightness, sore throat and muscle aches.

She said a negative test does not give people are free pass to not be careful.