Viral tests are performed to determine if you are currently infected. A negative result indicates that the COVID-19 virus was not discovered in the person’s sample. This indicates that the individual is not infected with the coronavirus. False negatives can happen for a variety of reasons, including persons being tested too soon after being exposed to the virus (which may not allow enough virus to build up to a detectable level), differences in how well the coronavirus can produce copies of itself in one person compared to another person, and circumstances when sample collection (e.g. getting swabbed) does not, for whatever reason, workever reason, capture enough of the virus.
COVID-19 PCR tests conducted 3 to 5 days after a person is infected that produce a negative result should not be relied on alone to determine infection status, according to a study by Johns Hopkins researchers, and the clinical and epidemiologic situation should be thoroughly examined by health specialists. The study also discovered that about 8 days after exposure, the false-negative rate is at its lowest.
If people suspect they’ve been exposed to COVID-19, they should isolate themselves, consult a healthcare practitioner about whether to get tested or take other steps to address their health, and keep an eye out for symptoms.
A negative COVID-19 test result for a sample collected when a person is experiencing symptoms indicates that the COVID-19 virus is not the source of their present sickness.
The information on this page was last updated on December 3, 2020