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Mendoza says don't let a negative test result for COVID-19 give you a false sense of security

Jul 23, 2020

Monroe County Public Health Commissioner Dr. Michael Mendoza at a Thursday briefing with reporters.
Credit Monroe County/Zoom

Monroe County’s Public Health Commissioner said it’s good to be tested for COVID-19, but you shouldn’t let a negative test result give you a false sense of security.

During a briefing with reporters Thursday, Dr. Michael Mendoza said that it’s important to remember that the tests are not perfect and, in fact, there are a significant number of false negative tests.

“The point here is that a negative test is not reliable enough for anybody to stop taking the precautions that we all need to keep the entire public safe," Mendoza said. "So that false sense of security, that false reassurance, is really what we want to avoid.”

Mendoza emphasized that getting a negative result on your COVID-19 test should not stop you from continuing to wear a mask when around other people, and observing social distancing and other procedures designed to lower the infection rate.

The health commissioner also said that since New York state has made COVID-19 testing available to anyone who wants it, there is an increase in demand for the tests in Monroe County. Mendoza said that, so far, the capacity for being able to do those tests has remained adequate although he said there are some instances where the test results may come back a little later than usual.

Mendoza also pointed out the fact that a number of people testing positive for the virus are in their 20s, particularly women.

“Our conclusion is that there are more younger people traveling and more younger people gathering," Mendoza explained. "They tend to be more female than male. I’ll have to look at the numbers but I believe there are more females than males in that age group. I don’t think there’s anything particular about being female or male that predisposes one more or less to the infection, I think it has more to do with the propensity towards travel and gatherings."

On the subject of reopening schools, including students possibly being back in the classroom part-time, Mendoza indicates that it's doable, but there are challenges.

“It is practical but it won’t be easy," Mendoza said. "Am I nervous about it? Yes. Because we certainly don’t want to see our community slide backwards. Do I know that there are risks to remaining closed? Yes. This is not a zero risk situation and we have to balance the risks and benefits in a very nuanced way."