A woman in Oklahoma is warning people to stay home and isolate if they feel sick, even if they have a negative COVID-19 test.
"Don't trust a negative COVID test. If you have the symptoms, especially that loss of taste and smell, you have to stay home,” Lesley Shollmier told local media.
Shollmier should know, she had three negative tests before a fourth one came back positive.
A few days before Thanksgiving, she started feeling sick, so she took a PCR test and it came back negative. Then a day or two later, she felt more sick and fatigued, and had a rapid COVID-19 test to be sure she was negative before spending Thanksgiving with family. That test also came back negative.
Her and her husband had a small Thanksgiving with her mother, brother and sister-in-law.
The day after Thanksgiving, Shollmier tells CNN she made a cup of tea and slice of pumpkin pie, when she realized she couldn’t taste or smell.
"I immediately knew, this is COVID. I just knew that that was one of the classic symptoms and regardless of anything, I have to have it. As odd as it sounds, I was fortunate to have that symptom so that I knew for sure that I was doing the right thing,” Shollmier told KTUL.
She went to a different testing site and took a PCR test. The next day, those results came back negative.
Her symptoms got worse, congestion moved into her chest, so she self-quarantined in her home keeping away from her husband on the second floor.
She took another PCR test for COVID-19 on November 30, and again, results came back negative.
She continued to isolate as symptoms got worse, now including back aches, shortness of breath, congestion and fatigue.
"I just assumed 100% I had COVID-19 and the last thing I wanted to do was infect someone,” Shollmier said.
On December 2, she reached out to her doctor and asked to take a fourth PCR test.
Finally, after having symptoms for 12 days, Shollmier finally had a positive COVID-19 test result.
The FDA says molecular tests, like the PCR test, look for the virus’ genetic material and most are done with nasal swabs or throat swabs, and are typically highly accurate.
Health experts agree with Shollmier’s decision to isolate even without a positive test result. A study published in August showed that people who took a test on the day they started showing symptoms had a false-negative rate of 38%. Even three days later, those who had COVID-19 with symptoms still had a false-negative test rate of 20%.
After Thanksgiving, the White House coronavirus task force urged Americans who traveled for the holiday to assume they were likely infected and to isolate on their own.
Shollmier is sharing her story as a warning to others.
"Listen to your gut. Know when you're sick and when you need to stay home. And just because you get that negative test doesn't mean that you're negative,” Shollmier told KTUL.
She is still dealing with lingering symptoms. She tells CNN her family has been tested twice so far, and no one has symptoms or has tested positive.