ROCHESTER, Minn. — Getting a COVID-19 test doesn’t guarantee you won’t transmit the virus to others over the holidays, a Mayo Clinic expert advises.

“You still have to mask and socially distance,” said Dr. William Morice, president of Mayo Clinic Laboratories.

Morice Monday, Nov. 23, gave a public update on Mayo Clinic's efforts on testing for the virus, which included advice that getting a negative test doesn’t ensure you won’t spread the virus.

Morice added even a test that indicates the presence of possible antibodies for the virus in a person’s immune system isn’t a guarantee they won’t spread or contract the disease.

“Having antibody tests can’t necessarily be equated with a clean bill of health,” he said.

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Antigen tests, which can indicate the presence of the virus or antibodies, or both, can be administered and processed where people are being treated, unlike polymerase chain reaction tests — known as a PCR test — which are processed in laboratories.

PCR testing is more accurate, but the capacity of conducting those tests is being pushed under the nationwide spike in COVID-19 cases.

About 1.5 million tests per day are being conducted across the U.S., with more than 20,000 processed per day at the Mayo Clinic laboratories.

“It is putting a strain on the system to be doing this many tests,” Morice said.

Although less accurate, the antigen tests can expand the capacity for testing and make conducting tests more flexible looking ahead to 2021, he added.

New test

A new test pioneered by Mayo Clinic and given FDA emergency use authorization earlier this month can also help health professionals determine who may face serious symptoms and complications from COVID-19. The blood test finds indications of inflammation or potential severe response from a person’s immune system.

The virus itself causes inflammation and damage. However, the most severe cases are a result of the person’s immune system response to the illness. The test helps predict who might develop a serious immune response, Morice said.

“It is useful to identify and manage which patients are going to need more intensive care,” he said.