Jul 30, 2020 3:07 PM

Baldetti: Testing lag and long symptom onset makes tracking COVID-19 a challenge

Posted Jul 30, 2020 3:07 PM

By NICK GOSNELL

Hutch Post

HUTCHINSON, Kan. — Reno County Health Department Director Nick Baldetti says the COVID-19 case count in the county is slowly going down, but vigilance is necessary because the disease has a long life in someone who is infected.

"Replication of the virus inside of the individual, that gestation period is generally about a two-week window from exposure that an individual contracts to heightened viral body load within the bloodstream that can be picked up via a PCR test," Baldetti said. "The other piece that lags is simply the logistics of getting test results back, so now, unfortunately, the average time for a test result to come back right now is between 7 to 10 days."

That means it could be up to three and a half weeks from exposure to confirmation of a positive test. In some people, that's long enough for the virus to clear completely before they know definitively that they have it.

"We're not even in possession of a confirmation of a laboratory test and individuals may be already done with their allotted quarantine time, in terms of their symptom onset date and test result," Baldetti said. "Which impresses the importance upon, when you go get tested, every primary care physician or doctor's office is telling you to be sure you quarantine because you've been tested."

This lag, combined with the fact that little is still known about asymptomatic or presymptomatic spread means everyone needs to interact in public as if they themselves are infected and continue to follow personal hygiene guidelines, mask wearing and handwashing along with social distancing as much as is possible.