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Doctor Says It's A 'Very Dangerous Strategy' To Use Negative COVID-19 Test As Excuse To Gather

LOS ANGELES (CBSLA) -- Doctors are pushing back against plans some have to use a negative coronavirus test as a reason to break county rules and gather.

"It is not good for that and that is a very dangerous strategy. You can turn positive at any point," said Dr. Christina Ghaly.

False-negative tests are not the norm, but since they do happen, it is important to maintain proper coronavirus safety precautions regardless, doctors say.

On Monday night, 194 coronavirus patients were in the hospital at LAC+USC Medical Center, as more than 11,000 new coronavirus cases were reported in L.A. County.

In some cases, results just days apart can vary, as it did for Rubi Hernandez, who tested negative two days after testing positive.

The coronavirus-positive woman said she went to work during those two days believing that she was in the clear, and was surprised when her second test came back showing that she had the virus.

She says she feels terrible for unknowingly exposing her coworkers because of what appeared to be a false-negative test result.

"I will never forget the look on (my coworkers') face," she said.

Doctors say her situation is a prime example of why people need to take the restrictions in place seriously.

"COVID tests miss cases," said Dr. Brad Spellberg, the chief medical officer of LAC+USC Medical Center. "There's no question about it. Best estimate is it will pick up about 80 percent of cases, which means it misses 20 percent of them."

Now, after her likely false-negative coronavirus test, Hernandez said she's staying home for the holidays and encourages others to do the same, as health experts have also been urging Angelenos to do.

If people don't take heed to the warnings, the critically high surge present in Thanksgiving, Fourth of July and other holidays, could repeat and top those numbers after Christmas.

"There will be no way for us to handle that surge in patients," Dr. Spellberg said.

Health experts continue to encourage Americans to keep themselves and others safe by maintaining physical distancing, wear face coverings and stay home as much as possible.

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