“Know how to not get COVID? Don’t get tested.”
That’s the premise of some viral TikTok videos that mock COVID-19 testing in which users boast about not getting tested despite showing symptoms – a message doctors are calling “extremely dangerous” and “selfish.”
In a video posted by @ilovedessert100, the user writes, “People out here saying they’re missing their fam (vacation) or (Christmas) bc they have COVID… can’t test positive if you don’t get tested.” Similar videos have garnered hundreds of thousands of likes as well as copycat videos and affirming comments.
Dr. Eric Ascher, a family medicine physician at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York, says this messaging isn’t just on social media, and it gives him chills.
“Being in family practice, I hear that from more patients than I’d like to hear. That if they don’t go for a test, then they don’t have COVID, and it doesn’t work like that,” he says, adding the message is “extremely dangerous.” “This is exactly what will bring us so many steps backwards in the fight against COVID. I think with vaccinations and boosters and testing and the amount of testing that were we have access to now, that’s actually preventing this disease from spreading even more.”
Dr. Robert Frenck, an infectious disease doctor and director of the Vaccine Research Center at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital, says this type of thinking is “very selfish.”
“You’re not considering what damage you may do, not only to yourself, but to others,” he explains. “Testing not only is to help know about you, but it’s also to help out the community. So you’re not going to work and coughing and sneezing all over everybody, and then you’ve transmitted the virus to somebody else. So it’s twofold.”
On some of these viral videos, users are trying to set to record straight.
“Tried that, now been in the hospital for a month at 20,” one user commented.
“My brother is on (oxygen support) again, fighting for his life (because) of covid… might seem like a small number but to others it’s the biggest heartbreak,” another wrote.
Why it’s imperative to get tested for COVID
Ascher urges anyone who is experiencing cold or flu-like symptoms to get tested for COVID-19.
“You might as well go for a test,” he says. “It’s just worthwhile that you know.”
Symptoms can include cough, fever, chills – and now with the omicron variant, even milder symptoms, especially in those who are vaccinated and boosted. This may include a sore throat, mild cold-like symptoms, congestion and fatigue.
“Any cold or flu-like symptom, that’s COVID until the test proves otherwise,” Ascher says. “So the fact that there are so many folks who are ignoring the idea of going for a test so that they don’t have to quarantine, they could blindly be spreading this disease.”
See a message like this? ‘Ignore it.’
“Absolutely ignore it,” Ascher says. “I’m not suggesting that people start getting into battles on social media, but I would absolutely, if possible, report it to TikTok or Instagram or Facebook.”
In addition to reporting misinformation about COVID-19, he also urges viewers to “absolutely not share it” and “absolutely not to believe in it.”
“It’s so so important that because we have such a plethora and such an access to testing to get tested when there are symptoms. And the turnaround for these tests are so quick,” he says. “We’ve done a wonderful job for the past couple of years since the onset of COVID with being vigilant, masking, vaccination. We just have to continue that for just hopefully a little bit more time.”
Frenck encourages people to remember “we’re in this together.”
“We should be helping each other out in the community, and we should decreasing the risks not only to ourselves, but to others,” he says.
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