If I’m still testing positive for the virus, can I stop isolating?

Tests differ in their sensitivity, and also in how people perform them. “Some people examine a swab and think they’ve just touched their nose,” said Dr. Gordon. “Although with other people – in fact, recently with a family member, I had to say, ‘Don’t hurt yourself,’ because they really got in there.”

One lesson is that long-term positive results are common enough that those who leave the isolation before 10 days should be careful, such as wearing a suitable mask, experts say.

Beyond that, scientists have disagreed. Some have suggested that unless they have an antigen-negative test, even if it takes more than 10 days.

“We can now make recommendations for personal experience using quick test results to guide us,” said Dr. Grad. “And since we know that some people may have an extended course, it seems reasonable to me that you should do it if you are able to continue the isolation if it is positive.”

However, many more say that as a matter of public health policy, there is no point in asking most healthy people to be isolated for more than 10 days or even to continue testing.

“No one is saying that there are some people, maybe statistically at the end of the tail, who can be infected after 10 days,” said Dr. Chin-Hong. However, people at that stage of the infection may not play a major role in spreading the virus, and constant testing may keep many people out of work or out of school without public health benefits, he said. “And you also raise an equity issue,” he adds, “like, ‘Who on earth can test enough?'”

Even then, experts say, there are some situations where people should continue testing and potentially disconnect after the 10th day. This includes people whose symptoms are not improving and who are immunocompromised because they can spread the infectious virus for a long time. (The CDC recommends that people with weakened immune systems be isolated for up to 20 days.)

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