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  • Manini Sethi

Should You be Getting Tested for Covid-19 if You Don't Have Any Symptoms?

CBU and CBUSU recently organized pop up covid-19 testing and encouraged students who are asymptomatic, have not had close contact with a confirmed case of covid-19 and who have not travelled outside the province in the past 14 days to get tested for coronavirus. These tests were free of charge for students who wished to get themselves tested.

Source: CBUSU Facebook page.

Even though we're almost a year into this pandemic, there is still a lot of debate as to whether or not asymptomatic testing of non travel related cases is worthwhile.

The CDC (Center for Disease Control and Prevention) modified its coronavirus testing guidelines to exclude people who do not have symptoms of covid-19 such as (but not limited to) headaches, fever, new or worsening dry cough and loss of sense of taste.

According to this latest amendment, individuals who have not been in close contact with a confirmed case of covid-19 (typically defined as 6 feet) for 15 minutes or more do not necessarily need to get tested for covid-19. They do however point out that those who are particularly vulnerable to the virus, such as those who have underlying health conditions or work in the health care industry, should consider getting tested regularly even if they do not have symptoms of the virus. CDC also recently reduced its recommended quarantine periods. According to CDC, "Travelers returning home should keep nonessential activities to a minimum for at least seven days if they are getting tested, and for 10 days if they are not getting tested."

It is, however, worth noting that by CDC's own estimates, about 40% people who get the coronavirus may not develop symptoms but may still be able to pass the virus on to those who may develop symptoms.

On the other end of the table many experts argue that widespread asymptomatic testing of the coronavirus may be the key to significantly reducing the cases and deaths associated with this virus. Duke University recently published a study in which the found that more than half of the positive results of covid-19 were asymptomatic. Therefore, a substantial proportion of infections would be missed with only symptomatic testing. The author of this study argues that it is important to combine asymptomatic testing with contact tracing strategies in order to reduce transmission of the virus. In addition to testing, contact tracing and quarantining, other measures Duke took to mitigate risk included converting dormitory rooms to single occupancy, modifying classrooms and common areas for social distancing, and distributing packaged meals. All students signed a behavioral compact agreeing to comply with mandatory face masking and social distancing requirements and to participate in entry and surveillance testing

The province of Nova Scotia continues to maintain its stance on promoting asymptomatic testing. “While asymptomatic testing is voluntary, it is strongly recommended as an added layer of protection for rotational workers and students, their families and households, and their communities,” said Dr. Robert Strang, Chief Medical Officer of Health. “By getting tested, you’re helping us detect the virus early enough to isolate household contacts before they can unknowingly spread the virus to others.”

So should you consider going to a pop up COVID testing facility if you don’t have any symptoms, haven’t been exposed to a confirmed case of COVID and haven’t travelled outside the province? While we can’t confirm if there’s a “right” answer to this question, our personal recommendation would be to get tested. Best case scenario: you help prevent the spread of a deadly disease which caused a year long global pandemic. Worst case scenario: you just had what looks like a long earbud go up your nose for a few seconds.

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