The official guide to Covid-19 Testing
Over the last few months, we’ve learned not only the importance of regular Covid testing, but also how critical timing plays into it. We know that many of you are wondering what the best testing protocols are in order to keep your friends and family safe, especially as we enter the winter months and the holiday season. We decided to round up some of our most frequently asked questions with answers from our team of medical experts to keep you and your community safe and covid confident.
I am traveling. Exactly when should I get tested?
Before Departure: It’s best to be tested as close as possible to when you’re set to travel or see your friends and family, as long as you can receive the results in time. We suggest 48-72 hours before travel. Many states and countries require a test within 72 hours of your arrival.
After Arrival: New York recommends getting tested 4 days after arrival to give sufficient time after an exposure, but in some cases it can take longer to show positive. Some experts recommend getting tested as late as 7 days after arrival, waiting longer reduces the chance of a false negative test. California recommends a full 14 day quarantine.
What does a negative test result tell me?
The only thing a negative test tells you is that you tested negative at that particular moment in time. It only means you did not have Covid-19 at the time of testing. You may be okay today, but you might be incubating from a recent exposure and could turn positive tomorrow or the next day or anytime 14 days after an exposure. Or, you could have a new exposure after the test. A false negative is possible at any stage of infection.
I got a negative test result. Can I travel, see my family and friends, etc.?
Yes, but, you should still wear a mask, use sanitizer, stay six feet apart and practice social distancing. A negative test is not a failsafe. If you have had a recent exposure, it’s possible you could turn positive tomorrow or in the next few days or anytime up to 14 days after an exposure.
I received a positive test result. What should I do?
You should stay isolated at home away from other household members for 10 days from the day you got swabbed. If you wish to be tested to leave isolation sooner, we recommend no sooner than 7 days from your swab date. If you have a cough, shortness of breath or have an oxygen reading under 95, call Sollis to speak with a provider.
If I believe I’m exposed to Covid-19, should I get tested the next day?
No. You would not see a positive Covid-19 test one day after being exposed. The best time to get tested is at least 4-5 days after an exposure. Some experts recommend getting tested as late as 7 days after exposure because waiting longer reduces the chance of a false negative test.
If I think I was exposed, when would I get symptoms?
On average, symptoms of the virus start 5 days post-exposure, but can take up to 14 days to manifest. This is why quarantining for 14 days is the most conservative approach after a likely exposure. However, the CDC currently recommends a minimum of 10 day quarantine for most people (with a 1% chance of still being able to transmit coronavirus up to day 14). Another way to reduce the quarantine is to get a PCR test on day 7 and end quarantine if this test is negative (with a 5% chance of still being able to transmit coronavirus up to day 14). Typically, patients can test positive for Covid 2-3 days before developing symptoms, but, in some cases, symptomatic patients won’t test positive until at least 3 days after symptoms start. Some patients (up to 50%) can be asymptomatic or just have very minor symptoms, but they can still test positive and transmit Covid.
What is the optimal time to get a Covid test?
At least 4-5 days after potential exposure in order to avoid false negatives. Some experts recommend getting tested as late as 7 days after exposure because waiting longer reduces the chance of a false negative test. False negatives can occur for up to 14 days but are very unlikely after 7 days. Because of this, quarantining for 14 days is the most conservative approach after a likely exposure. However, the CDC currently recommends a minimum of 10 day quarantine for most people (with a 1% chance of still being able to transmit coronavirus up to day 14). Another way to reduce the quarantine is to get a PCR test on day 7 and end quarantine if this test is negative (with a 5% chance of still being able to transmit coronavirus up to day 14)
How long does it take to get results?
Typically, Sollis Health provides results in 24-48 hours.
What type of tests do you offer at Sollis?
We currently offer Nasopharyngeal (NP) PCR tests and Oropharyngeal (OP) PCR tests. NP swabs are your standard nasal swab. OP swabs are similar to strep tests where a swab is taken from the back of the mouth and throat. A nasal test has proved to be more effective than a throat swab or saliva sample.
I’m waiting for my Covid test results. What should I do?
Stay quarantined. This means staying apart from other household members. Don’t go outside in public. Wear a mask as regularly as possible. Anyone that is exposed to you should wear an N95 mask when they are with you.
How often should I get tested?
This is a personal choice and only you know how you are interacting with the world around you, but, in an ideal world, testing regularly (every 2-4 weeks) will keep you most informed.
How reliable are various kinds of tests?
To detect the presence of the virus, the most reliable and most accurate is the PCR test taken from a nasopharyngeal sample sent to a commercial lab. This is because the best sample comes from where the virus is most highly concentrated.
What about rapid tests?
A rapid antigen test could tell you immediately if you are positive, but these tests are less accurate. Rapid PCR tests are better than antigen tests but less accurate than PCR tests conducted at a commercial lab, like through Sollis. Less accuracy means more false negatives.
What about at-home tests?
At home tests are convenient and don’t require you to leave your home to get tested. They are not always readily available. The tests have the same limitations as discussed in the prior questions. The only added concern is that you need to make sure you collect the sample properly. If you are doing your own swab and it’s not collected properly, the reliability of the test will be affected.
Should I get an antibody test? If so, when?
Antibody tests and the T-cell test (Sollis is working to get the T-cell test, and we will let members know when it is available) detect evidence of prior exposure or infection based on the immune system response. They do not tell: when the exposure or infection occurred, whether it’s an active infection, whether you can transmit Covid, or whether you have any level of immunity. The optimal time to perform an antibody test is at least three weeks after the start of your initial infection or the date you believe you were infected. The longer you wait, the more likely you are to show antibodies if indeed you were infected by Covid-19.
When will you get the Covid-19 vaccine?
Sollis is staying on top of all vaccine developments so we can have it available to members as soon as possible. Distribution is funneled through state governments and government contracts. It will be allocated first for high-risk populations, such as healthcare workers and nursing home patients. Industry experts believe that the vaccine will only be available to high risk groups in early 2021 and the general population in mid-to-late 2021. We will work tirelessly to have the vaccine available for members through appropriate channels.
If you have questions about Covid-19 testing or would like to learn more about a membership at Sollis Health, please reach us at firstname.lastname@example.org .