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Does a Negative PCR Test Mean I Don't Have COVID?

COVID-19 is still circulating in the United States in the spring of 2021. This highly contagious respiratory disease spreads easily between people. In order to reduce the spread of COVID-19, it’s important to get tested if you think you could have been exposed. You may need to self-isolate in order to avoid exposing and infecting others.

You can use several different methods to test for COVID-19. At GatherWell COVID Testing of Ham Lake, Edina, and Otsego, Minnesota, we offer molecular/polymerase chain reaction (PCR) testing, among other COVID-19 testing options.

When you get your results back, it’s important to interpret them accurately. Here’s what you need to know about interpreting your PCR test results.

How PCR testing works

Molecular or PCR testing, also known as NATT or RT-PCR, examines your provided sample for any trace of the virus, SARS-CoV-2, that causes COVID-19. If your sample shows the presence of this virus, you are likely to be infected with COVID-19 and could spread the condition to others.

PCR testing is the most accurate test available for COVID-19. With this testing method, you submit a sample, typically taken with a nasal or nasopharyngeal swab. PCR testing looks for specific types of genetic material in your sample. We can identify the genetic profile of the SARS-CoV-2 virus, if there is any present in your sample, with PCR testing.

Interpreting your test results

If your PCR test comes back positive, you are very likely to be infected with COVID-19. A positive PCR test result means that you should take precautions, like isolating yourself from others, avoiding crowds, and not traveling, in order to avoid spreading COVID-19.

It is possible to get a “false positive” with PCR testing. If you’re concerned about a potential false positive, talk to your provider at GatherWell about your options. Information about your symptoms, travel history, and medical history can be helpful in determining how to handle a suspected false positive.

A negative test result indicates that the virus was not present in your sample. So, does that mean that a negative PCR test means you don’t have COVID-19?

Most likely, any symptoms you have are not caused by COVID-19 if your PCR test comes back negative. However, you should still practice caution, as it is possible to receive a “false negative” on your PCR test. If you’ve become infected very recently, you might not have enough virus in your body to be detectable at the time of your test. You could also be exposed to COVID-19 right after your test.

Talk to your provider at GatherWell COVID Testing about your concerns about a potential false negative. Depending on your symptoms, potential exposure, and personal health history, we can help you make the right decisions to protect your health and the health of your loved ones.

Contact the infectious disease experts at GatherWell COVID Testing to schedule your PCR test appointment today.