Doctors: COVID-19 testing is just as important now as it was last year

MADISON, Wis.– The constant reminder to get tested for COVID-19 faded into a reminder to get vaccinated to protect you from the virus.

Doctors said testing is just as important now as it was last year if you were exposed or have symptoms of COVID-19.

Dane County averaged more than 6,000 tests each day over a two-week period in November 2020. The average was down to 2,600 during the past two weeks, according to data from Public Health Madison and Dane County.

UW Health’s Chief Quality Officer Dr. Jeff Pothof said there’s a couple of reasons those numbers took a nose dive.

“Vaccinations are up. So, as more people are vaccinated, less people are going to get sick,” Pothof said. “Even for the unvaccinated, as you decrease the rate of COVID in the community, less of it out there, maybe you see less tests.”

Even though transmission is slowing, it’s not gone altogether. Pothof said getting tested will protect you and the community, maybe even more than last year.

“We now have therapies that if given early reduce the severity and the likelihood that you have severe disease,” Pothof said. “This is something that we did not have early on in the pandemic, but we have now.”

This message isn’t only for unvaccinated people. A positive COVID-19 test from someone who’s fully vaccinated holds a lot of information that could improve the vaccines.

“Those are the people that we’re really interested in sending their test off for sequencing,” Pothof said. “That would start to tell us we might have variants that are defeating vaccinated people, and that would be an indication to get working on a booster shot.”

Will a COVID-19 test turn up positive if you’re fully vaccinated? Pothof said PCR tests do not involve antibodies. If a vaccinated person took a nose or spit test, a positive test means the virus was found in the patient’s nose or spit at that time.