COVID-19 Testing Guide

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How to prepare for a COVID-19 test? 

A few things to consider before getting tested for COVID-19 include: 

  • Have you had symptoms associated to COVID-19 prior to testing? – Symptoms related to COVID-19
  • Have you been in close contact within the last 5-7 days with someone who tested positive for COVID-19? 
  • Have you taken part in activities considered to be higher risk for developing COVID-19? These include travel, attending large social or mass gathering or being in a crowded indoor setting. 
  • Have you been referred to get tested by a healthcare provider or health department? 

What to remember on test day? 

Most testing locations use a nasopharyngeal/nasal swab test or saliva test to conduct a COVID-19 test. Some locations use a self-administered nasal swab test that allows you to swab your own nose, supervised by trained medical providers. 

How long does it take to get COVID-19 test results? 

If you do get tested, you should self-quarantine/isolate at home pending test results and follow the advice of your health care provider or a public health professional. You should arrange for others to provide groceries, medicines, etc. whenever possible to avoid exposing others. The typical turnaround out time for most nasal swab and saliva tests is approximately 48 hours. 

What to do after you receive your results 

If you test positive for COVID-19, remember to continue isolating and recover at home. Most people have mild infections and can recover without medical care. It is important to follow CDC guidelines on what to do if you are sick. Be sure to contact your healthcare provider if symptoms get worse. Seek emergency care if you develop any of the following emergency warning signs

  • Problemas para respirar
  • Dolor o presión persistentes en el pecho
  • New confusion
  • Inability to wake or stay awake
  • Labios o cara azulados

If you test negative, this means you did not have COVID-19 at the time of testing or that your sample was collected too early. It is possible you may not have been infected at the time your sample was taken. Even after receiving a negative result, it is important to continue to monitor your symptoms to determine if a COVID-19 infection develops. You should still take precautions to protect yourself and others including following social distancing and hand hygiene. 

What does an inconclusive COVID-19 test mean? 

An inconclusive result does not indicate a positive nor negative result. This result is typically due to an inadequate sample collection, very early-stage infection, or collection from a patient close to recovery. With an inconclusive result, collecting and testing another sample is recommended. It is recommended to make an appointment for another test as soon as possible. 

How long after exposure can you test positive? 

Information on the incubation period of COVID-19 is still being collected. This period is the number of days between when you’re infected with COVID-19 and when you might start to see symptoms.  Studies have shown that the period is thought to extend to 14 days, with a median time of 4-5 days from exposure of symptom onset. Most individuals will test positive within 5-7 days of exposure to someone with COVID-19. It is possible to continue testing positive for up to 3 months after diagnosis of COVID-19. Although a positive test is possible up to 3 months after exposure, the possibility for infecting others is no longer a threat after the 14-day incubation period. 

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