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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.

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:

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.

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. 

Some federal and state programs are also offering households free self-test kits. Availability comes and goes, so check back if the tests have run out: 

  • COVIDtests.gov – a federal program offering 4 free tests, shipped directly to your home 
  • Say Yes! COVID Test – a state program through Washington’s Department of Health 
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

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.

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.

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

If you test positive, you should isolate at home, away from others, for at least 5 days, even if you don’t have any symptoms. Inform your healthcare provider as well as close contacts. Follow isolation and quarantine guidance to learn when it’s safe to be around others again and consider reporting your result to the self-test report line at 1-800-525-0127 (Language assistance is available, just speak the language you need when the call is answered) or 1-509-222-2333. If you absolutely have to be in contact with others, including other people living with you at home, make sure you wear a well-fitting mask of the highest quality you can find.

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. If you swab too soon after an exposure, you may test negative even though you do have the virus – you just don’t have enough for the test to be able to detect it. Swabbing on day 5 after exposure will give you the most likelihood of accurate results.

You should repeat the test within 24-72 hours if this is indicated by the package instructions for your test. Flowflex tests are approved for single use and so follow up tests are not required. However, regardless of which test you are using, taking tests serially increases the accuracy of the tests and reduces your risk of transmitting COVID to others.

Use this tool to find out if you should quarantine or isolate, and for how long:

English Isolation & Quarantine Calculator

Spanish Calculadora de aislamiento y cuarentena COVID-19

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

You are not required to report your positive result, but we strongly encourage you to do so. WA state residents can report their results confidentially by calling the state’s COVID hotline at 1-800-525-0127. Language assistance is available; speak the language you need when the call is answered.

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.

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

 

 

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.

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.

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 Community testing sites 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.

Free Community Testing in Pasco and Richland

      CBC-West – Pasco Test Site
      FREE COVID-19 Drive-Through Testing

      3110 W. Argent Rd., Pasco
      Friday through Tuesday (closed Wednesday and Thursday)
      8:30 a.m. – 4 p.m.

      Subject to early closure due to weather or exceeding testing capacity. Check our Facebook page for information.

      • Please select a different site for travel testing to allow the site to focus on symptomatic and exposed individuals.
      • Not intended for testing mandated by employers in lieu of vaccination.

      Preregister online for CBC-West
      (preregistration makes for a faster experience at the test site – you may have to wait in line until you reach the point where the site breaks into lanes)

      • Drive-through testing
      • No insurance needed (bring card if you have one, your insurance will not charge you a fee)
      • Anyone with any COVID-19 symptoms
      • Anyone whose physician recommended they be tested
      • Anyone who is a close contact or has a known exposure to COVID-19
      • Anyone who feels they need to be tested

      Results
      Results available in your portal within 3 days. Positive tests will also be called. Test status will change frequently as test arrives, is in processing and is pending. Please wait for test results. Call if more than 5 days have passed.

      Additional Information: Testing is available regardless of immigration status. The site is ADA accessible. The site is staffed by Pasco Fire and local healthcare. Community partners include Greater Columbia Accountable Community of Health, Health Commons Project, WA State Dept. of Health and the University of Washington.

      Traveling? Take note
      Our focus is to reduce the spread of disease in our community. You can find PCR tests at other locations in our community like Health First Urgent Care and Walgreens’ locations.

      Downtown Richland Test Site
      FREE COVID-19 Walk-Up Testing

      975 George Washington Way, Richland
      Sunday through Thursday (closed Friday and Saturday)
      Sunday, Monday, Tuesday – 9 a.m. – 3 p.m.  Wednesday, Thursday – 9 a.m. – 5 p.m.

      • Subject to early closure due to weather.
      • Not intended for testing mandated by employers in lieu of vaccination.

      Preregister online for the Richland testing site
      *(preregistration makes for a faster experience at the test site – you may have to wait in line with walk-ins)

      Register here if you have symptoms

      Register here if you have no symptoms

      • Park and walk-up testing
      • No insurance needed (bring card if you have one, your insurance will not charge you a fee)
      • Anyone with any COVID-19 symptoms
      • Anyone whose physician recommended they be tested
      • Anyone who is a close contact or has a known exposure to COVID-19
      • Anyone who feels they need to be tested

      Results
      Results available in your portal within 3 days. Positive tests will also be called. Test status will change frequently as test arrives, is in processing and is pending. Please wait for test results.

       

      Additional Information: Testing is available regardless of immigration status. The site is staffed by EMS workers from Columbia Safety and managed through University of Washington Lab.