Not everyone needs to be tested for COVID-19. If you are tested, you should self-quarantine and isolate at home when waiting for your test results. People who should get tested include
- those with symptoms of COVID-19,
- those who have had close contact (within 6 feet of an infected person for at least 15 minutes) with someone who has been diagnosed with COVID-19,
- anyone who has a healthcare provider who recommends testing (for instance, due to recent or planned travel).
There are two different types of COVID-19 tests—diagnostic tests and antibody tests.
- Diagnostic tests use a nasal or throat swab (sometimes saliva) to diagnose active COVID-19 infection. There are two types of diagnostic tests:
- Molecular tests detect the presence of the virus’s genetic material with testing run at a local laboratory. This type of test is highly accurate to diagnose current infection but does not show if you have ever had COVID-19 in the past.
- Antigen tests detect the presence of specific proteins on the surface of the virus. This is the type of test which is typically used in rapid diagnostic testing with results available in minutes. When this test shows positive results, it is highly accurate but negative results may need to be confirmed with molecular tests.
- Antibody tests use blood to detect antibodies which are created to fight infection. Antibody tests show if you have had COVID-19 in the past but do not show if you are currently infected. Positive antibody tests do not necessarily mean that you are immune to re-infection.
The reliability of diagnostic test results depends on a number of factors including how the test was collected and the conditions in which the test was shipped to the laboratory. Additionally, results may be affected by when the test was taken. For example, if a person is tested on the day they were infected, there may not be enough viral particles in the nose or mouth to detect this recent infection. The chance of getting a false negative (a test result that says you are not infected with COVID-19 but actually are) decreases if you are tested a few days after a suspected exposure or a few days after you have some symptoms.
All tests for COVID-19 are very specific, meaning that if a test does come back as positive, it is almost certain that the person is infected.
Currently, at-home testing is available through various outside companies, however they may require some payment up front, and your physician may not directly receive a copy of your result. The timing to do the test can also play an important role in accuracy, so it is best to speak to your physician before pursuing a test.
If you feel you are at risk or need additional testing, contact your Crossover care team for further information on testing options and what kind of test may be right for you.
Labs are doing antibody or “immunity” testing.
We don’t currently have a recommendation for antibody testing, because
- right now, it isn’t clear how long COVID-19 antibodies last after infection,
- it also isn’t clear if these antibodies means you can’t be infected with COVID-19 again,
- and the test can sometimes say you have COVID-19 antibodies when you do not.
Whether you’re tested or not, you can help reduce the spread of COVID-19 by physical distancing and wearing a mask.
Isolate yourself at home until the risk of spreading COVID-19 to others is thought to be low.
Stay home from work until
- at least 3 days (72 hours) have passed since recovery (resolution of fever without the use of fever-reducing medications) and improvement in respiratory symptoms (like a cough or shortness of breath),
- at least 6 days have passed since symptoms of COVID-19 first appeared, and
- your doctor tells you it’s safe to return to work.