When to Get Tested for COVID-19

S. Alease Ferguson, Ph.D.., LPCC

To date, the COVID-19 (SARS-CoV-2 virus) Pandemic is not done with us. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that the virus, its Delta variant, and other mutations have led to 42 million COVID fatalities worldwide. In addition to COVID-19 related respiratory risks, we are even more prone to its variants, the cold, and the deadly flu this fall and winter. Though it is possible to be affected by allergies, bronchitis, sinusitis, and other respiratory ailments that should be distinguished from COVID-19. You can guard your health by getting your COVID and flu vaccinations this season.

If you have already gotten your COVID-19 vaccination, try to stay well. Your best advantages rest with staying out of crowds, masking up, engaging in social distancing, ventilating, and properly sanitizing your home and workspace multiple times a day.

Why Get Tested?

Medical practitioners are also reminding us to add the practice of COVID-19 PCR nasal testing to our arsenal of COVID-19 caretaking.  As the COVID-19 virus continues to mutate, we must include testing as a regular part of our self-care regimen. Both the Ohio Department of Health and the Cuyahoga County Board of Health suggest getting tested early and as needed to get a correct diagnosis and effective treatment.  Presently, the nose swab testing for COVID-19 is considered an accurate and reliable diagnostic test. A negative test means that you probably did not have COVID-19 at the time of the test.

Getting tested is necessary when you have:

  • Symptoms of COVID-19 and or have exposure to someone who tested positive for COVID-19.
  • Acquired a breakthrough infection after being previously vaccinated.

In addition, if you are an unvaccinated child, teen, or adult:

  • Seek testing first, followed by immediate treatment when your result is positive. Where appropriate, explore the monoclonal antibodies infusion early on. Having this discussion with your health care practitioner could save your life.
  • If you are a parent of an unvaccinated child under the age of 12, it is critical to determine if your child is showing signs of COVID-19 or other respiratory concerns like the cold, sinusitis, allergy, bronchitis, or flu. The sooner you get the PRC nasal swap test for COVID-19, the quicker you will know the diagnosis and can seek appropriate medical treatment.

When to Get Tested for COVID-19?

How well you and your loved ones feel is always the best gauge of knowing when to get tested. Feeling unwell is the first clue that you need COVID-19 testing. Also, seek medical attention if you are experiencing any of the following symptoms:

  • Fatigue and severe exhaustion
  • Cough
  •  Fever or chills
  • Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing
  • Muscle or body aches
  • Headache
  • New loss of taste or smell
  • Sore throat
  • Congestion or runny nose
  • Nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea

Remember, not all persons with COVID-19 will have symptoms; furthermore, not everyone displays the symptoms listed above. Therefore, we urge you to check with your physician whenever you are not feeling well during this COVID-19 pandemic — even if you’ve been vaccinated.

Types of COVID-19 Tests

The most common means of diagnosing the COVID-19 virus comes through either an Antigen test or the more refined PCR test.

  • Antigen Tests have been most commonly used since the start of the pandemic. Antigen tests are taken with a nasal or throat swab to detect a protein that is part of the coronavirus. Antigen tests identify individuals near peak infection. On the upside, these tests are less expensive and generally faster. At the same time, they may be less accurate.
  • PCR Tests can be found at your local drug stores. These tests are considered to be the most sensitive and highly accurate in detecting the disease. They can be purchased in rapid and home administration forms.

Note that these tests are also available in Rapid Testing and Home Testing formats. These tests can be provided at a health center, or purchased at drug store, and used in the convenience of your own home.

What do COVID-19 PCR test results mean?

Testing positive with the SARS-CoV-2 occurs when there is the presence of either an asymptomatic infection or the symptoms of the COVID-19 disease. Those with a mild form of the illness can expect to recover at home without medical care. At the same time, severe respiratory distress may require hospitalization.

A negative test result means you likely do not have an infection with SARS-CoV-2 at the time of testing.  Also, be aware that the test may not always detect if you have COVID-19 in instances where you have recently become infected within the week. At the same time, a negative result doesn’t mean you are out of the woods. After your test, it is also possible to be exposed to COVID-19, get infected, and spread the SARS-Cov-2 virus to others.

Talk with your health care provider when you test positive. Also, take care to stay home, rest, and separate yourself from others. If your test is negative, continue to take steps to protect yourself and others from getting COVID-19.  Note: Testing is a self-care practice that you may need to implement several times during the years of the pandemic.

Receiving Your Results

In most cases, it is possible to receive your results within 24 hours after getting tested. If you test positive for SARS-CoV-2 but have already recovered, discuss the findings and best self-care strategies with your healthcare provider since healthy people can be re-infected.

Local COVID-19 and PCR Testing Resources

Where to Get Testing in Northeast Ohio?

Contact: CVS, Walgreens, and the Walmart Quest Diagnostics Partnership.

Also, feel free to contact the Cuyahoga County Board of Health for more information at https://www.ccbh.net or 216-201-2000.

After testing, you can consult the Center for Disease Control’s self-checker to help you determine your next steps in the course of care.

Be Well & Stay Safe!