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Here's How Soon to Get Your COVID Test After Thanksgiving, Says Doctor

“You need to assume that you're infected,” said Dr. Deborah Birx.
Medical worker in protective suite taking a swab for corona virus test, potentially infected young woman

We are in an unprecedented third wave of the coronavirus, with cases surging and hospitalizations soon to be at an all-time high. And if you traveled for Thanksgiving, or spent it with people you're not sheltering with, you may have the virus—and be in mortal danger, or in danger of spreading it to someone else, even someone you love.

Dr. Deborah Birx, Coronavirus Response Coordinator for the White House Coronavirus Task Force, appeared on CBS's Face the Nation Sunday to discuss when you should get tested if you ignored the CDC's advisory to stay in this Thanksgiving. Read on to hear her essential advice, and to ensure your health and the health of others, don't miss these Sure Signs You've Already Had Coronavirus.

Dr. Birx Said The Reason You Need a Test is, We Have 10x As Much Disease Across the Country

"If you look at the second wave going into the Memorial Day weekend, we had less than 25,000 cases a day. We had only 30,000 inpatients in the hospital and we had way less mortality, way under a thousand," says Dr. Birx, who calls this the third wave. "We're entering this post-Thanksgiving surge with three, four and 10 times as much disease across the country. And so that's what worries us the most. We saw what happened post Memorial Day. Now we are deeply worried about what could happen post-Thanksgiving because the number of cases, 25,000 versus 180,000 a day, that's where- that's why we are deeply concerned. And as you described, it looked like things were starting to improve in our Northern Plains states. And now with Thanksgiving, we're worried that all of that will be reversed."

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Dr. Birx Said You Should Assume You're Infected—And Advised When to Get Tested

"We know people may have made mistakes over the Thanksgiving time period," said Birx. "So if you're young and you gathered, you need to be tested about 5 to 10 days later. But you need to assume that you're infected and not go near your grandparents and aunts and others without a mask. We're really asking families to even mask indoors if they chose to gather during Thanksgiving and others went across the country or even into the next state."

To that end, Dr. Anthony Fauci, on This Week, suggested you should also quarantine yourself. "Right now, as people go back, we want to urge them, if they've been in situations outside of the family setting, in which they really don't know the level of exposure, to be really careful when you either return from the place that you went or other people come back into your house, that you've really got to understand the importance of trying to prevent further spread and further surge," he said. "That may be when you go back to where you've came from, if it's possible, to quarantine yourself for a period of time, or even get tested to make sure that you're not bringing infection back to another place, be it another home, or another family."

Those at High Risk Should Get Tested Because Early Care Can Save Their Lives

Those at high risk have a more urgent need to get tested—early treatment can save your life. "If you're over 65 or you have comorbidities and you gathered at Thanksgiving, if you develop any symptoms, you need to be tested immediately because we know that our therapeutics work best, both our antivirals and our monoclonal antibodies, work best very early in disease," said Dr. Birx. "So we're really asking governors and mayors to make testing more available so we can prevent people having to be hospitalized. But obviously, we're deeply worried. We're over 90,000 inpatients right now. If we have a surge two weeks on top of that, even when we are starting to see some improvement…."

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More Mask Mandates and Closed Bars/Restaurants Can Stop the Surge

As for how to stop the current surge, Birx had a few ideas. "First, what we do know works is mask mandates, mask requirements," she said. "In states that did those or mayors or counties that did that, we can see a really significant difference in not only cases, but hospitalizations and fatalities. And so starting with mask mandates and masking requirements absolutely key, followed by if you have high case numbers and you're seeing increased hospitalizations, the first thing you should do is close spaces where people cannot wear a mask. And we know where that is. That's bars and indoor restaurants. Reduce capacity if needed. You may have to even close them. We have seen that that works. That's what Arizona did. And that's where Arizona got control. Arizona is in the position that they need to be really considering this again, because their case numbers are up where they were in the summer."

As for yourself, no matter where you live, follow all of the advice above,  and to get through this pandemic at your healthiest, don't miss these 35 Places You're Most Likely to Catch COVID.