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Why a negative COVID-19 test doesn't necessarily mean you aren't contagious

This timeline is important to keep in mind as you consider your Thanksgiving plans.

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — While many people are turning to COVID-19 testing before visiting family for Thanksgiving, it's important to note, those tests are only a snapshot in time. It does not necessarily mean you are virus-free after you get your results. 

Let's unpack what that means.

Say you are unknowingly exposed to the virus on day-one… and on day-five you are tested. You may test negative, even as your body fights off the infection.

But, if you go to a family Thanksgiving gathering 3 days later, you could still be contagious, but not showing symptoms.  Doctors think this time period, in which you are infected, but not showing symptoms, is when you are the most contagious. 

Remember, you might not show symptoms until 14 days after that initial exposure.

Also note, even if you are not infected before your negative test, you can still be exposed between when you take the test and Thanksgiving Day when you gather with friends and family.

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