Home / About Us / A Message From the Health Officer / 11.17.22 – When Should I Get Tested for COVID-19?

11.17.22 – When Should I Get Tested for COVID-19?

Hi, I’m Dr. Nilesh Kalyanaraman, the Health Officer for Anne Arundel County. Welcome to our Weekly Health Update. Today let’s talk about COVID testing. With the holiday season here, it’s time to see family and friends. Testing is an important way to keep you and your loved ones safe from COVID during the holiday season.

When should I test?

Anyone who has COVID symptoms should get tested immediately. If you’ve been exposed to someone with COVID you should test 5 days after your exposure.

Should I test before gatherings?

Routine screening for people without symptoms is no longer recommended. However, in certain situations, it may make sense to do a screening test before a gathering. Consider it if you’re going to be around people at high risk for COVID complications, like older adults or people with compromised immune systems. Also, consider it if you’ve been engaged in higher risk activities like spending time in crowded indoor areas without a mask or being around sick people.  

What type of test should I take?

At home rapid antigen tests are the most convenient option for testing and return results in 15 to 30 minutes. They’re more accurate for people with symptoms. Also, they work best when they’re used exactly as instructed, so make sure to follow the directions closely and check the testing kit’s expiration date. Get tested as close to the gathering as possible.

PCR tests are very accurate but require a visit to a testing site and take a few days for results to come back. They are more accurate if you don’t have symptoms so if you do use them for screening testing, plan ahead.

How can I get tested?

Rapid tests are available for free through the Health Department and libraries, and for a low cost at pharmacies and online. PCR testing is available for free through the Health Department and for a charge through health care providers.

It’s important to note that a negative COVID test doesn’t guarantee that you are not infected with the virus and you won’t transmit it to others. The best way to protect yourself against COVID is by making sure you’re up to date with your vaccinations. Also, use a mask if you’re in crowded settings and there’s a high COVID community level.

Stay safe and be kind to yourself and others. We’ll see you next week.

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