The holidays are finally in the rearview mirror, 2022 is off to a fresh start, and you’ve just tested positive for COVID-19. Now what? For many, the spread of the Omicron variant has resulted in positive tests, including among the fully vaccinated. For some people, testing positive can be extremely overwhelming. If you’re finding it difficult to deal with a positive test, we’ve got you covered. Below is everything you need to know about what to do when you test positive for COVID-19, starting with getting the test.
First Things First: Getting the Test
The obvious first step in knowing what to do when you test positive for COVID-19 is getting the test. However, tests are in short supply across the country, so ensuring you get one before you return to your normal activities is important to help stop the spread of COVID-19. So, how do you get a test, and which one is best?
Finding a test in your area can be difficult, especially during the Omicron variant surge. The major places to look for a COVID-19 test are health centers, pharmacies, community centers, and local clinics. To find a testing site near you, visit the United States Department of Health and Human Services website and use their testing site locater.
Once you’ve found a test, follow the instructions given by the provider, and ensure you wear a mask. It’s important to avoid contact with other people during the time leading up to your test. Since you don’t know if you’re positive for COVID-19, you should act as if you are.
If your test comes back negative, you can resume your normal activities, while still following the current Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidelines. For those with a positive test, here’s what you should do.
What To Do When You Test Positive for COVID-19
If you’re in public or around other people when you find out you’ve tested positive for COVID-19, put a mask on immediately. Masks have been proven to help stop the spread of COVID-19, so it’s important to do your part when after testing positive. Once you’ve masked up, it’s time to go over the six major things you should do once you’ve tested positive for COVID-19, starting with isolating yourself.
No matter your vaccination status (unvaccinated, partially vaccinated, or fully vaccinated), here’s what to do when you test positive for COVID-19.
Currently, the CDC recommends that anyone who tests positive for COVID-19 isolate themselves from others, no matter their vaccination status. This is perhaps the most important thing you can do after testing positive for COVID-19, so ensure that you are truly isolating yourself for the recommended period.
Isolation not only means not leaving the house but also keeping your distance from uninfected people with whom you share your home. If you live with roommates or family, try to separate yourself from other people, and animals, as much as possible.
Isolating yourself in a home with other people can be difficult, but it’s important to do the best you can. This means staying in your room, or a part of the house away from others, even for meals. Have someone deliver your food to your bedroom or section of the house if possible. If you have more than one bathroom, dedicate one to yourself to ensure you’re keeping your distance.
If you do need to share a living space, here are a few things you can do to lower your risk of passing your infection on to others:
- Wear a mask
- Avoid contact with others
- Do not share items such as towels, blankets, cups, etc.
- Limit the number of people that enter your home
It’s not just those in your immediate family or household that need to worry about your positive test. Another extremely important precaution to take once you’ve tested positive for COVID-19 is contact tracing.
Start Alerting Those You Came in Close Contact With
There may be a period between when you first display symptoms of COVID-19 and when you get tested. During this time, it’s recommended that you isolate yourself from others. However, for those who may be asymptomatic or who may have been exposed to COVID-19 unknowingly, the risk of transmission to those around you is extremely high.
As soon as you become aware of your positive test results, identify anyone with whom you came in close contact while contagious and alert them that you’ve tested positive. It’s estimated that you’re contagious and able to transmit the virus, somewhere between two to five days before symptoms arise. This means to be as safe as possible, try to notify everyone you’ve come in close contact with in the last week. But what is “close contact?”
Close contact is defined as being within six feet of someone for a combined total of 15 minutes or more over 24 hours while contagious. This means that coworkers, family members, friends, or anyone else who may fit this description should be notified immediately.
The bottom line is that it’s incredibly important to let people know that they have been exposed, so they can take the necessary quarantine precautions and get tested as recommended.
Notify Your Doctor
Once you’ve isolated yourself and notified everyone you’ve come in contact with since being contagious, the next step in knowing what to do once you test positive for COVID-19 is to notify your doctor.
COVID affects everyone differently. Some people have no symptoms at all and may not even know they are ill, even though they can transmit the coronavirus to others. In some people, COVID-19 can start mild and become serious quickly. While the majority of COVID-19 cases are mild, it’s still a good idea to notify your doctor to let them know you have COVID. They can help you understand if there are any next steps for your treatment, or if you should be taking any extra precautions to stay safe.
If you tested positive via an at-home rapid antigen test, your doctor can also help you determine how to report your positive result to the local health department. This is important since it helps provide public health officials with an accurate picture of the virus’ spread in the community.
Your doctor will also tell you to closely monitor your symptoms and to notify them if they worsen.
Monitor Your Symptoms
Some people are more likely to have more serious symptoms from COVID-19 than others. One group, in particular, that is at a higher risk for serious symptoms, hospitalization, and even death is the unvaccinated. Getting vaccinated helps protect you from the virus and helps your body fight it more effectively. This means a much lower risk of severe symptoms and an even lower risk of hospitalization or death.
Still, vaccinations are not 100% effective at preventing serious symptoms. This is why it’s important for everyone who tests positive for COVID-19 to monitor their health closely.
Seek emergency care if you experience any of the following symptoms:
- Difficulty breathing
- Persistent chest pain
- Inability to stay awake
- Bluish lips or face
Follow Current CDC Guidance
The next step once you test positive for COVID-19 is to follow the current guidance given by the CDC. The CDC’s guidance is given by some of the nation’s top infectious disease experts, virologists, immunologists, doctors, scientists, and healthcare providers. While no one wants to isolate themselves from others, it’s the best tool we have to help end this pandemic.
The CDC updates its guidelines frequently as our knowledge of COVID-19 continues to grow. It’s important to stay up to date with the latest information and guidance given by the CDC. In recent weeks, the CDC has updated its isolation guidelines from 10 days to five days following a positive test.
For more information on what to do when you test positive for COVID-19, look to your local city guidelines. These guidelines will usually contain information about your specific area.
If You Haven’t Already, Make a Plan to Get Vaccinated or Boosted Once You’ve Recovered
Finally, if you’re unvaccinated, or partially vaccinated, get vaccinated as soon as you’ve ended isolation. While there is no shortage of misinformation about the COVID-19 vaccines, the fact of the matter is that they are safe, effective, and our best way out of this pandemic.
Studies have shown that unvaccinated adults are six times as likely to test positive for COVID-19 than vaccinated people, nine times more likely to be hospitalized, and 14 times more likely to die from COVID-related complications.
If you’re partially vaccinated or have not yet received your booster, make an appointment to finish your vaccinations once you’ve recovered.
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