Health

Here’s Why You Need a COVID-19 Test After an Exposure—Even if You’re Vaccinated and Asymptomatic

Even vaccinated people without symptoms will need to get a COVID-19 test after exposure to someone with the coronavirus, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) say in yet another change to the guidelines.

Back in March, the CDC updated its recommendations to say that fully vaccinated people did not need to get a COVID-19 test after exposure to someone with a known or suspected case of the virus—as long as they didn’t have symptoms. But now even those who are vaccinated and asymptomatic should get a test between three and five days after the exposure, the CDC says. They should also wear a mask in public indoor settings for 14 days after an exposure or until they get a negative COVID-19 test result. If the test result is positive, they should isolate for 10 days.

The new guidelines, along with those recommending masks for vaccinated people indoors in some areas of the country, represent an evolving understanding of the coronavirus—particularly the highly transmissible delta variant. Fully vaccinated people have a significant amount of protection from the variant, especially from hospitalization or death due to the variant. But rare breakthrough cases are possible, and the CDC now says that vaccinated people may be able to spread the variant should they become sick. 

“Infections happen in only a small proportion of people who are fully vaccinated, even with the delta variant. When these infections occur among vaccinated people, they tend to be mild,” the CDC explains. “If you are fully vaccinated and become infected with the delta variant, you can spread the virus to others.” (That said, vaccinated people make up only a small amount of the total transmission, the CDC says.) 

With all of that context, it makes sense for vaccinated people to both wear a mask in some high-risk settings and to get tested should they come in contact with the virus. Knowing if you have the virus and, therefore, that you might be able to spread it to others is a crucial piece of information in this stage of the pandemic when many are still unvaccinated—including young kids. It may be an inconvenience to get tested, but as the U.S. enters yet another COVID-19 wave, we all have a responsibility to take the necessary precautions in keeping ourselves and our communities safe.

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