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Should We Rethink How We Test For COVID-19?

The Delta variant of COVID-19 is commonly referred to as more infectious than previous strains of the virus. According to the new study officially published by the CDC on Friday, both vaccinated and unvaccinated people can have about the same viral load, or risk of transmission, with an active infection. This means that they may be just as likely as unvaccinated people to pass on the Delta variant, as compared to the original and other variants of COVID-19.

Dr. Jeanne Noble is an emergency physician and director of COVID Response for the UCSF Emergency Department. She says what doctors are looking for when they test for covid is the risk of spread. In other words, how infected we are.

Our real question when someone who is vaccinated has an exposure to covid or mild symptoms that seem like they could be covid, is can they transmit to others.

To test for COVID-19, you can either take a PCR test and get results in a day or two, or take an antigen, or rapid, test, which gives you your results in about 15 minutes. While rapid tests are less sensitive than PCR, Dr. Noble says that rapid tests detect the virus if there is a high enough viral load to be infectious.

So even if you’re vaccinated, if you’re feeling sick or you’ve been exposed to someone who is, it’s probably a good idea to take a rapid test to make sure you’re not infectious.

And if you’re not vaccinated? Now’s the time to do it. You can find more information on vaccines and on COVID-19 at the CDC website.