To Test or Not to Test
Many of us, living through the COVID-19 pandemic, have been in a situation where they have had to ask themselves, “should I get tested?” Especially as we try to resume some aspects of normal life, testing will become increasingly important. Given an increase in demand, testing supplies may once again become scarce. It is helpful to review the reasons you might want to get tested for help determining whether you should.
You have symptoms. If you have symptoms of COVID-19—including fever, cough, shortness of breath, and or sudden loss of taste or smell—you should be tested right away. Call your primary care provider or, if you do not have a primary care provider, the SVMC COVID-19 Info Hotline at 802-440-8844.
You live with someone who tests positive for COVID. The first thing to do is isolate yourself from the person who is positive. Call your primary care provider or, if you do not have a primary care provider, the SVMC COVID-19 Info Hotline at 802-440-8844. Your provider or the hotline representative will ask you questions that will help you determined whether you were likely to have been exposed at the same time as your family member or whether you should wait a few days before testing. In either case, isolation is very important.
You have had exposure to someone who has now tested positive. If you don’t hear directly from the person you had close contact with, you will most likely get a call from your state’s contact tracers. They will ask you many questions and advise you to isolate. They will also provide instructions regarding when and where to get tested.
You have traveled to an area where COVID is circulating, and you would like to end quarantine early. Depending on the availability of tests, you may be able to shorten your quarantine by getting tested 7 days after your return. Call your primary care provider or, if you do not have a primary care provider, the SVMC COVID-19 Info Hotline at 802-440-8844.
You are required to be tested before having a medical procedure. The healthcare provider performing the procedure will provide instructions about where and when to get tested.
You need a negative test to resume work or school. If your workplace or institution does not provide a testing location, you can get a drive-up test at SVMC with a doctor’s order. You can also look for pop-up testing sites, like those listed here or locations listed on a similar website published by your state’s department of health.
You think you may have been exposed in public by people you don’t know. Brief contact between people wearing masks, like those between store clerks and customers, for instance, are not likely to pass COVID-19. Use the CDC’s symptom checker to monitor your symptoms.
While testing is helpful, prevention is more helpful. Limit your risks by wearing a mask when in public, keeping 6 feet from those outside your household, and washing hands frequently. Limit travel and non-essential trips. Being careful in our everyday interactions is the best way to ensure our own and our family’s safety should cases start to rise in our community.
Marie George, MD, FIDSA, is an infectious disease specialist at Southwestern Vermont Medical Center.