As COVID testing options increase, communication should too

Report all positive tests to your doctor ASAP in case you qualify for life-saving treatment

Closeup of a COVID-19 test. A Sanford Health nurse's gloved hands seal a plastic specimen bag with a hazardous materials sticker on it and a capped vial inside it.

With the omicron variant spreading at a rapid rate, people all around the country are seeking out COVID-19 tests. Fortunately, testing is available.

At-home tests have become an increasingly convenient and accurate option and more available than ever at local pharmacies and retailers.

Individuals can get tested at Sanford clinics, as well as many city- and county-run testing locations.

Things to remember when home-testing:

  • If your at-home test is positive, you don’t need to retest. You have COVID-19 and should stay home, take care of your symptoms, and message your provider through My Sanford Chart if you’re experiencing severe symptoms or are high-risk for illness.
  • If you have symptoms and your at-home test is negative, stay home and monitor how you feel. If your symptoms continue to worsen, come in for a COVID-19 test.
  • You can find at-home tests at Walmart, Target, Walgreens and other local retailers. If you test negative, you can retest yourself 24 hours later.
  • If you think you might be sick, get tested right away.

As Dr. Doug Griffin, Sanford Fargo’s vice president and medical officer says, testing remains incredibly important.

“There’s two things for the importance of testing for COVID-19. One is to make the diagnosis for COVID-19. That means you should be isolating, staying away from work and people, and staying home.

“Second is, if you can get an appropriate treatment — the main one being monoclonal antibodies post-diagnosis — it needs to be given within 10 days of the onset of symptoms,” said Dr. Griffin.

Time is of the essence

The timeline for effective antibody or antiviral treatment is one important reason to contact your doctor after a positive test. The easy availability of at-home testing allows people to detect the virus early, but Dr. Griffin says it’s important to follow up with Sanford as soon as you get a positive result.

When COVID-19 testing at home, be sure to notify your doctor after any positive result. The fastest way to reach your provider is with a message through My Sanford Chart.

“For many people, the COVID-19 symptoms are mild. They can recover at home. That still is the majority of people. But there are some people at risk for severe disease, hospitalization and death. And those are really the people that we want to get the monoclonal antibodies.

“Not everybody may recognize they’re at risk. So I think if you do have a positive test, that warrants reaching out to your medical professional. You could call your clinician, or you could call My Sanford Nurse and run through the screening,” said Dr. Griffin.

If patients wait too long after a positive test, though, treatment will be ineffective.

“We know from the care of other viral illnesses, that once it gets more established and into a phase that’s 10-14 days later, those (treatments) just generally are not effective,” said Dr. Griffin. “So that’s why the earlier the better, to maximize the chance (it works).”

At-home test basics

An at-home COVID test can be purchased at your local pharmacy or even online from places like Amazon. Costs vary widely as well, but some start around $20. Tests at your doctor’s office or at city- and county-run testing locations are provided at no cost.

U.S. health insurers are required to reimburse patients who purchase tests at their local pharmacies starting Jan. 15. President Joe Biden also recently announced that 500 million at-home tests will be available for free to individuals who request them starting in January.

Sanford Health Plan members: COVID-19 test reimbursement

The tests themselves also vary. Some collect saliva samples, while others require a nasal swab. They typically provide rapid results, letting people know if they are COVID-positive in as little as 10 minutes. Anyone purchasing an at-home test should consult that test’s instructions for full details.

Remember, getting vaccinated is the best way to prevent serious illness and death from COVID-19.

“If you’ve not had a booster vaccine and you’re eligible, please get your booster vaccine. Secondly, if you get four to five days after a gathering and you’re not feeling well, I’d go ahead and test,” said Dr. Griffin.

Information in this story was accurate when it was posted. As the COVID-19 pandemic changes, scientific understanding and guidelines may have changed since the original publication date.

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Posted In Coronavirus, Fargo, Immunizations

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