Negative COVID-19 results aren’t free passes to gather on holidays, health experts say

MADISON, Wis.– Some people saw the days leading up to Thanksgiving as their last chance to confirm it’s okay to see family this year.

A negative test isn’t a free pass to gather for the holiday, according to health experts.

“Saturday was extremely busy, and I think that was a lot of people getting tested before they leave for their Thanksgiving holiday,” Director of Environmental Health at Public Health Madison and Dane County Doug Voegeli said.

UW Health’s Dr. Nasia Safdar warns COVID-19 testing has its limitations.

“It cannot be used as a substitute for staying away from people,” Safdar said.

This means a negative result today isn’t a guarantee that you won’t be contagious come dinnertime Thursday.

“You can develop symptoms or test positive at any time during those 14 days,” Safdar said.

Safdar said a positive test has value, because it tells you to quarantine. On the other hand, a negative test can be a false security blanket.

“It’s great that it’s negative today, but it’s not an invitation to go out and interact with others,” Safdar said. “You can test positive in the subsequent days.”

If people do decide to gather with family and friends on Thanksgiving, doctors said they should not get tested the next day. It takes at least 48 hours for a positive result to show up.

“We are hoping people are not here on the Friday after Thanksgiving or that Saturday, unless they’re experiencing symptoms. Then absolutely we want them to come and get tested,” Voegeli said.

The Alliant Energy Testing Site will be closed on Thanksgiving Day. It will return to normal hours after the holiday.


Voegeli said Public Health is expecting the site to be busier than usual next Tuesday because of the holiday.