As the public reels from the news of President Donald Trump’s positive coronavirus diagnosis, fears are now turning to the health of former Vice President Joe Biden, who had been in proximity with Trump during their debate on Tuesday night. Though both candidates had gotten negative test results before the event, epidemiologists have warned that there is still cause for concern.
According to The Guardian, experts have warned that since the president tested positive on Thursday, he was within the virus’ incubation period and would have been infectious at the time, despite his negative test results.
It is “entirely possible” Biden has been exposed, warned Saskia Popescu, an epidemiologist and assistant professor at the George Mason University.
This is because the coronavirus still has the capability to spread even if its viral load is too small to be picked up on tests.
Researchers “are certain that there are people who test negative” for the virus “even though they are definitely contagious,” explained Emily Landon, a hospital epidemiologist and infectious diseases specialist at University of Chicago Medicine, to Advisory.com.
“A positive test can make us relatively certain that you are shedding [the new coronavirus]. But a negative test does not mean the opposite,” she added.
Moreover, epidemiologists have sounded the alarm about the high rate of false negatives in many COVID tests. Some studies have estimated that as many as one-third of negative results could be wrong — often because the test was taken in the very early stages of the disease.
Some such tests with “accuracy concerns” had previously been used in the White House, though it is unclear whether their use was discontinued after the FDA announced its alert, per The Inquisitr.
Meanwhile, other doctors and health experts have echoed similar statements on the steps Biden and his team should take following Trump’s diagnosis.
“He does need to be immediately tested. He has come in proximity to someone that has covid,” added Sanjay Gupta, CNN‘s chief medical correspondent (via The Express).
That said, the organizers of the event did take precautions in case of such a scenario. For example, the two candidates did not shake hands — a new change spurred by COVID-19 rules. In addition, their lecterns were around 10 feet apart, which is greater than the suggested 6 foot radius suggested by most doctors.
However, others have noted the dangers of the loud speaking volume used by the commander-in-chief, especially since shouting has shown to be a major spreader of the virus.
The White House said its medical unit had begun contact tracing on Thursday. No statements have yet been made on the future of the next debate, which is scheduled for Thursday, October 15.