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COVID-19 Testing

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One of the best ways to decrease the spread of COVID-19 is to get tested. Getting tested does NOT increase the amount of disease in our community. Adequate testing allows for early identification of cases, quick isolation and decreases transmission rates.

COVID-19 Testing is not available at Benton-Frankin Health District Offices. See testing locations below

As more self-test kits become available in our community, it’s getting easier to test for COVID-19 quickly at home. Tests are important tools to help us detect infections and isolate from others, if necessary, to control the spread of the virus.

Here are answers to some of your most frequently asked questions about self-tests:

Where can I get a self-test?

You can buy self-tests from many retail stores and pharmacies. Some local community health centers, community based organizations or libraries may also be providing kits at no cost.

As of January 15, 2022, private insurance companies are required to cover the cost of up to 8 self-tests per person, per month. Contact your insurance company to understand the process. Washington Apple Health (Medicaid) patients can receive up to 12 free self-tests per month. Make sure the pharmacy you go to accepts Apple Health coverage as no reimbursements are allowed.

A state program is offering households free self-test kits:

  • Say Yes! COVID Test – a state program through Washington’s Department of Health – two orders can be made per household/residential address, per month and each order comes with 5 rapid tests.  All orders and shipping are free. 
When should I use a home self test?

Consider testing yourself and your family in the following situations:

  • If you have symptoms of COVID-19 like a cough, fever, or sore throat
  • If you have been near someone who ended up having COVID, even if you don’t have symptoms. In this case it is good to test 5-7 days after exposure.
  • Before returning to work or school in person after an extended absence or school break, according to the organization’s guidelines
  • Before family gatherings, parties or events, especially if there will be unvaccinated children, older individuals, or people who are immunocompromised or at risk of severe disease
  • After large events like sporting events and faith-based services
  • After travel

Antigen tests generally are most accurate when people have symptoms but can be used for people without symptoms in some circumstances.

False negatives can occur with rapid tests. Some testing kits may include two tests (you should follow the instructions on the box for when to test).

Self-tests are most accurate when you test twice if you get a negative result. Take a second test 24-72 hours after the first. If either test is positive you should consider yourself infected.

What should I do if my test is expired?

Expect rapid antigen COVID-19 tests to continue to have their shelf life extended

Before you throw away your expired COVID-19 tests, be sure to check if the shelf life was extended. This one-page information sheet has expiration details by test type, as well as helpful information on quality controls to ensure the test is working properly.

 

Why am I getting a negative test when I have symptoms or was exposed?

A negative test result means that SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, was not detected by the
test at that time.

Serial testing is when a person tests multiple times, such as every few days. By testing frequently, you
may detect COVID-19 more quickly and reduce the spread of infection. The self-collection kits often
come with a second test and are designed to be used in a series. If your first self-test is negative, you
should follow the manufacturer’s instructions for serial testing. These commonly call for testing to be
performed at least twice over three days, with at least 24 hours and no more than 48 hours between
tests. Contact a healthcare provider if you have any questions about your test results or serial testing.

A negative at-home COVID-19 antigen test can sometimes be a “false negative” result. This means the
test did not detect the SARS-CoV-2 virus that was in your nasal swab sample. Repeat testing is
recommended if you have symptoms of COVID-19 or a high likelihood of COVID-19 infection (such as
being in an area where the COVID-19 community level is high or if you were exposed to someone with
COVID-19):
• If you initially tested negative and have COVID-19 symptoms, retest every 24-48 hours through
at least five days after your symptoms started.
• If you do not have COVID-19 symptoms and may have been exposed to COVID-19, retest every
24-48 hours for five days after your last exposure, with one test on day 5.
• A molecular-based test, or a call with your health care provider, could be considered in lieu of
serial testing, or if serial testing results are negative but you remain concerned because of
symptoms or exposure.
See the DOH Symptom Decision Tree for Non-Health Care Settings and the Public for more
information.
If you were exposed to someone who has COVID-19 and you serially test negative, continue to follow
the guidance in What to do if you were potentially exposed to someone with COVID-19.

Do I need to report my COVID-19 positive test result?

Report your self-test results (both negative and positive) online using the Say Yes! COVID Test Digital Assistant. You can use this tool to report any self-test, even if you did not order your test from the Say Yes! COVID Test program. Reporting self-tests helps us better understand the spread of COVID-19 in Washington.

If you test positive with a self-test, refer to the Washington State DOH What to do if you test positive for COVID-19 guidance for detailed information on how to protect yourself and others, including information on isolation and how to access treatment if you are at increased risk for severe disease.

Make sure you tell your close contacts that you tested positive so that they can get tested, too. If you are reporting to work onsite or in an office, you should let your manager and human resources representative know. If you have a child test positive who normally goes to school or daycare, you should let the institution know.

Repeat testing is not recommended with a positive test result. Tell your healthcare provider about your positive test result and keep in touch with them during your illness. If you have questions and cannot access a healthcare provider, call the WA DOH Hotline at 1-800-525-0127.

 

 

If you need assistance to isolate or quarantine, reporting your positive test will start the process for you to receive help.

 

What do I do if I have a positive result? A negative result?

If you test positive with a self-test, refer to the Washington State DOH What to do if you test positive for COVID-19 guidance for detailed information on how to protect yourself and others, including information on isolation and how to access treatment if you are at increased risk for severe disease.

Repeat testing is not recommended with a positive test result. Tell your healthcare provider about your positive test result and keep in touch with them during your illness. If you have questions and cannot access a healthcare provider, call the WA DOH Hotline at 1-800-525-0127. 

If you test negative, that means that the test did not currently detect the virus in your system. However, this doesn’t mean that you don’t have COVID-19. 

A negative test result means that SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, was not detected by the test at that time. Serial testing is when a person tests multiple times, such as every few days. By testing frequently, you may detect COVID-19 more quickly and reduce the spread of infection. The self-collection kits often come with a second test and are designed to be used in a series. If your first self-test is negative, you
should follow the manufacturer’s instructions for serial testing. These commonly call for testing to be performed at least twice over three days, with at least 24 hours and no more than 48 hours between tests. Contact a healthcare provider if you have any questions about your test results or serial testing.
A negative at-home COVID-19 antigen test can sometimes be a “false negative” result. This means the test did not detect the SARS-CoV-2 virus that was in your nasal swab sample. Repeat testing is recommended if you have symptoms of COVID-19 or a high likelihood of COVID-19 infection (such as being in an area where the COVID-19 community level is high or if you were exposed to someone with COVID-19):

  • If you initially tested negative and have COVID-19 symptoms, retest every 24-48 hours through at least five days after your symptoms started.
  • If you do not have COVID-19 symptoms and may have been exposed to COVID-19, retest every 24-48 hours for five days after your last exposure, with one test on day 5.
  • A molecular-based test, or a call with your health care provider, could be considered in lieu of serial testing, or if serial testing results are negative but you remain concerned because of symptoms or exposure.

See the DOH Symptom Decision Tree for Non-Health Care Settings and the Public for more information.

If you were exposed to someone who has COVID-19 and you serially test negative, continue to follow the guidance in What to do if you were potentially exposed to someone with COVID-19.

 

How accurate are self-test results?

When testing instructions are followed correctly, self-tests are very good at detecting a high viral load of COVID-19, which is when someone is likely contagious. If you receive a positive result, you can be very confident in that result and should isolate.

Self-tests are most accurate when used serially. So if you get a negative result, we recommend taking a second test 24-72 hours after your first test. That’s because the accuracy of a negative result depends on many factors, such as how long after exposure you take the test and how much virus is in your system at that time. Make sure you test at least 5 days after exposure and follow instructions on the box to get the best chance of an accurate reading.

How to avoid counterfeit at-home COVID-19 tests

There are several at-home COVID-19 tests authorized by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), and the agency has confirmed that counterfeit tests are also circulating throughout the United States. Counterfeit tests are not authorized by the FDA and may not function properly.

At this time, the FDA has identified two counterfeit tests that are made to look a lot like Flowflex COVID-19 Test Kits and iHealth Antigen Rapid Test Kits. If you have either of those tests, look for the following signs that they may be counterfeit:

  • Poor print quality of text or images
  • Missing information on the outside box label, such as lot number, expiration date, barcode or QR code
  • Grammatical or spelling errors on the product label
  • Components of the kit do not match the content description on the box

Note: iHealth tests distributed by Washington State Deaprtment of Health and Benton-Franklin Health District  are not counterfeit.

Below is an example showing the difference between a counterfeit Flowflex test box and a legitimate one. The counterfeit box is missing the lot number, expiration date and QR code that is found on FDA-authorized Flowflex test boxes. Inside the box, it may also lack Spanish-language instructions.

COVID-19 Testing

Click here for more examples of counterfeit at-home COVID-19 tests, what to do if you have one and other testing resources. Before using an at-home COVID-19 test, make sure it’s on the FDA’s list of authorized at-home tests.

You can also order free COVID-19 tests directly from the federal government which are not counterfeit.

Are self-tests accepted for returning to work, school and childcare? What about for travel?

This varies and you should check with your employer, school or child care. The Washington State Department of Health is currently advising schools, child cares, and employers to accept both PCR and self-tests due to access issues.

Self-tests are not currently acceptable as proof of negative COVID status for travel. They also can’t be used for entry to restaurants and events.

For travel, look for rapid testing options that specialize in travel testing, as the Community Testing site can’t guarantee results back in time for your trip. Check with your country of entry and airline to understand the policy for submitting documentation. If you’ve recently recovered from COVID, your test result may still come back positive and you should instead submit a document certifying a previous infection.

Are self-tests as good as the ones you can get at testing sites? What are the differences?

Self-tests are usually antigen tests, while most testing sites use PCR tests. They are both useful in different ways.

PCR tests are performed in a lab or clinic and can take 1-3 days for results to be available. They are more sensitive because they can detect even very small amounts of virus. That means a PCR test may be able to tell if you’re infected earlier than a self-test, but it is also more likely to say you are positive well after you are no longer infectious.

Antigen tests (such as self-tests) are cheaper and faster – they usually take about 15 minutes to perform, and can be done at home. They are less sensitive, so you need a larger amount of the virus to test positive. That means you may test negative on a self-test even if you have COVID-19, such as at the beginning of your illness when you don’t yet have a lot of virus in your body. Self-tests are most accurate when used serially, such as taking a second test 24-72 hours after the first.

An antigen test is your best bet at telling you when it’s safe to come out of isolation. PCR tests can give positive results for up to 12 weeks or more and may detect virus particles long after your infection has passed.

How do I dispose of a self-test, especially if the result is positive?

You can throw away used self-tests in your regular garbage. Just make sure no one else touches the testing materials, especially if you have tested positive. To be safe, you can wrap the used test in another bag before throwing it in the trash.