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How do you know if you have ‘recovered’ from coronavirus? The CDC explains

HOUSTON – The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention updated its guidance to explain further what it means to recover from COVID-19. The agency said it would again as additional information becomes available.

As of April 1st, the guidance includes re-testing and non-testing methods for determining recovery, depending on the severity of the case.

Re-testing method

The CDC advised that all confirmed and suspected coronavirus patients should be symptom-free and test negative for the virus twice within at least 24 hours to be considered recovered.

Non-testing method

The updated CDC guidance offered a second method to determine coronavirus recovery without a test.

If a confirmed or suspected COVID-19 patient is fever-free "without the help of fever-reducing medication" for at least three days, if it has been "at least seven days" since the coronavirus symptoms first appeared, that person can be considered recovered.

Respiratory symptoms of the virus must also be improving during that time, but don't have to disappear entirely by seven days for the patient to be considered recovered, the CDC said.

"That's the clinical way, and that's the way the vast majority of people are going to meet the term of having recovered," Houston Health Department's Dr. David Persse said. "Part of the reason is that testing remains a very precious resource."

Employer demands

Persse said some Houston-area employers, unfamiliar with the updated CDC guidance, have sometimes demanded that employees who tested positive for coronavirus get two negative test results within at least 24 hours to prove they no longer have the virus.

"That is just unrealistic, and that's not helpful to the community, because we need those tests," Dr. Persse said. "We don't need to be using those on people that would easily meet the clinical definition of having recovered."

Exceptions

Some coronavirus patients “may be contagious for longer than others,” the CDC warned on its website.

The testing method "is preferred" for patients "who are hospitalized, or severely immunocompromised, or being transferred to long-term care of assisted living facility," according to the CDC.

The non-test-based strategy "will prevent most, but may not prevent all instances of secondary spread" of the virus, the CDC website added in a footnote.

The CDC also provided new guidance for healthcare workers, who have tested positive for the virus, or who think they had it, and are now considered recovered without a test.

"Wear a facemask at all times while in the healthcare facility until all symptoms are completely resolved or until 14 days after illness onset, whichever is longer," the CDC site stated. "Be restricted from contact with severely immunocompromised patients until 14 days after illness onset."

For the complete coronavirus guidance from the CDC, visit here.


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